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"  There  about  the  beach  he  wandered,  nourishing  a  youth  sublime, 
With  the  fairy  tales  of  science,  and  the  long  result  of  time." 








To  place  before  the  youthful  student  a  compact  and 
concise  compendium  of  the  leading  and  most  uni- 
versally important  branches  of  Science  has  been 
my  principal  object  in  the  preparation  of  this 
little  volume. 

To  adapt  the  work  to  the  capacity  of  all,  I  have 
endeavoured  to  divest  the  different  subjects  treated 
in  it  of  hard  and  dry  technicalities,  and  to  clothe 
them  in  the  more  attractive  garb  of  fairy  tales — a 
task  by  no  means  easy. 

That  I  have  been  obliged,  in  the  composition  of 
the  work,  to  consult  a  crowd  of  authorities,  need 
hardly  be  stated,  nor  will  any  more  formal  enume- 
ration or  systematic  acknowledgment  be  expected. 

In  the  fanciful  sketches  which  illustrate  these 
pages,  my  friend  Mr.  C.  H.  Bennett  has  most  fully 
entered  into  the  spirit  in  which  I  conceived  the 

I   have    to   tender   my   sincere   thanks   to   my 

esteemed  friend  Dr.  G.  L.  Strauss,  who  came  to  my 
aid,  at  a  time  when  severe  indisposition  seemed  to 
threaten  that  many  of  these  Fairy  Tales  of  Science 
should  remain  untold. 

J.  C.  B. 



ge  of  ftosters. 

The  griffins  and  dragons  of  fairy  mythology — The  monsters 
revealed  by  science — The  ancient  ocean  and  its  inhabitants 
— The  Cetiosaurus  —  The  Plesiosaurus — Aspect  of  the 
country  of  the  Dinosaurians — Crocodiles — Turtles — The 
Hylaeosaurus  and  Megalosaurus — A  fearful  conflict — An 
uncultivated  garden — No  trace  of  man — The  Iguanodon, 
a  huge  herbivorous  monster — The  Pterodactyle,  a  flying 
reptile — Wealden  beds — The  stone  book  .  .  pp.  1 — 14 


The  fairy  messenger — Thales  and  the  Amber  Spirit — Ancient 
explanation  of  lightning  and  meteors — Man's  devices  for 
enslaving  the  spirit — Globe  of  sulphur — Conductors  and 
non-conductors — Electrical  machines — The  Leyden  jar — 
How  to  draw  the  spirit  from  the  clouds — The  voltaic  pile 
— Deflections  of  the  magnetic  needle — The  spirit  employed 
as  a  courier — The  electric  telegraph  explained — Systems 
of  Wheatstone,  Morse,  Bain,  and  Bakewell — Telegraphic 
wires  —  Submarine  telegraphs  —  France  and  England 
brought  within  a  speaking  distance  of  each  other — Irish 
cable — Atlantic  cable — The  spirit  taught  to  measure  time 
— Bain's  electric  clock — The  electrotype — The  spirit's  ver- 
satility   pp.  15—28 


&f)E  JFour  (Slemente. 

The  ancient  doctrine  of  the  four  elements — Decomposition  of 
•wood — Universality  of  the  mighty  elements — Health  and 
disease — The  true  elementary  bodies — A  burning  candle- 
Fire  the  result  of  chemical  action — The  destroying  element 
— Chemical  compounds  —  Composition  of  combustible 
bodies — Air  the  great  supporter  of  life — Analysis  of  air — 
Uniformity  of  composition — Immensity  of  the  atmosphere 
— Properties  of  carbonic  acid — Ammonia — Watery  vapour 
— Compounds  of  nitrogen  and  oxygen — Carbonic  oxide- — 
Water  in  the  liquid,  solid,  and  aeriform  states — Analysis 
and  synthesis — Decomposition  of  water  by  potassium — 
Wonderful  revelations — Water  a  product  of  combustion — 
Synthesis  of  water — Earth  an  indefinite  substance — The 
sixty- three  elements  of  the  chemist — Principal  ingredients 
of  earth — Silica,  alumina,  and  lime — Salt,  pyrites,  and 
fluorspar — Metals  and  metalloids — Composition  of  plants 
and  animals — The  marvels  of  chemistry — True  interpreta- 
tion of  the  ancient  dogma pp.  29 — 51 

Wgt  ILtfe  of  an  atom. 

The  strange  vicissitudes  of  particles  of  matter — A  talking 
atom  — His  relatives  —  His  existence  as  a  rock-forming 
atom — First  glimpse  of  the  outer  world — Sets  out  on  his 
travels — Launched  into  the  ocean — A  roving  life— The 
coral  polype — Terrestrial  mutations — The  atom  liberated  by 
volcanic  agency — The  joys  of  an  aerial  atom— Plants  of 
the  carboniferous  period — The  atom  again  a  captive — 
Coal— Modern  career  of  the  atom — His  philosophical 
speculations pp.  53_64 

&  SLittU  Bit 

The  nature  of  matter— Illustrations  of  its  divisibility— The 
ultimate  particles  of  a  body  never  in  actual  contact— 


Porosity  of  gold — Opinions  of  Newton  and  Herschel — 
Hidden  truths — Relative  weights  of  the  ultimate  particles 
—  John  Dalton  —  The  atomic  theory  of  chemistry  — 
Celestial  atoms pp.  65 — 74 

JHotoertt  glrijentg. 

The  philosopher's  stone — Ancient  and  modern  alchemy — The 
mysterious  unknown — Liebig's  remarks  on  the  true  phi- 
losopher's stone — The  laboratory  of  the  modern  alchemist 
— Aluminium — Ultramarine — The  wonders  that  may  yet 
be  performed  by  the  alchemist — Transmutation — Like  and 
unlike — Charcoal,  graphite  and  diamond — Different  forms 
assumed  by  sulphur — Amorphous  phosphorus — Ozone — 
Modern  alchemists  true  descendants  of  the  old  gold-seekers 

pp.  75—87 

Cfje  fHagfc  of  tfje  Stm&eattt. 

The  influence  of  the  sunbeam — Theories  that  have  been  ad- 
vanced to  explain  the  nature  of  light  —  Velocity  of  light 
— Decomposition  of  the  sunbeam — The  prismatic  spectrum. 
— Influence  of  light  over  the  animal  and  vegetable  king- 
doms— The  Proteus  anguinus — Distribution  of  animals  in 
the  ocean — Plants  grown  in  the  dark — Heat — Dispersion 
of  the  heat-rays — Effects  of  heat — Actinism — Blackening 
of  horn  silver — Inorganic  bodies  sleep  during  the  night — 
Germination  of  seeds —Photography  .  .  .  pp.89 — 102 

(£ges  are  Setter  tfjan  ©tie. 

The  structure  of  the  human  eye — Herschel's  remarks  on  this 
wonderful  organ — Why  two  eyes  are  better  than  one — 
An  invisible  pair  of  compasses  —  Two  eyes  required  to 
obtain  a  true  conception  of  solidity — The  stereoscope — 
Double  vision — Single  vision pp.  103 — 111 


The  belle  of  the  sea—  Her  submarine  home—  A  deep  dive- 
Unfamiliar  objects—  The  mermaid's  garden—  Her  subjects 
—  The  black  goby  —  Emissaries  from  the  Court  of  Oberon  — 
An  expert  well-  sinker  —  Animated  umbrellas  —  The  lamps 
of  the  sea—  The  great  crab  family  —  The  porcelain  crab, 
the  spider,  and  the  hermit—  Sea-slugs—  Living  stars—  The 
sea-urchin  —  Serpulse  and  acorn-shells  —  The  mermaid  and 
the  naturalist  ..........  pp.  113—  127 

Inhnatrti  JJFIofoers. 

The  flowers  of  the  sea  —  Smooth  anemone  —  Thick-horned 
anemone  —  Living  daisies  —  Plumose  anemone  —  Voracity 
of  these  animal  flowers  —  Their  curious  structure  —  The 
madrepore  described  by  Gosse  —  An  amusing  anecdote  — 
The  living  flowers  of  tropical  seas  —  The  aquarium 

pp.  129—139 

A  meeting  of  aged  insects  —  An  unpleasant  scene  —  A  sensible 
proposition  —  The  cabbage  butterfly  —  Swammerdam's  re- 
marks on  the  internal  structure  of  a  caterpillar  —  The  tiger- 
moth  —  The  dragon-fly's  narrative  —  The  gnat  —  Reaumur's 
observations  —  The  case-  fly  —  The  ichneumon-  fly 

pp.  141—153 

The  witches'  cauldron  and  the  tea-kettle  —  Thermometers  — 
Boiling  and  freezing  points  —  Latent  heat  —  The  genii  of  the 
kettle  —  Ebullition  —  Conduction  and  convection  —  Hot  por- 
ridge —  Oceanic  currents  —  Pressure  of  the  atmosphere  — 
The  spheroidal  state  —  Water  frozen  in  a  red-hot  vessel  — 
Steam  springs—  The  fiery  ordeal—  The  Geysers  of  Iceland 
—  Sir  George  Mackenzie's  description  of  the  G  rea  t  Geyser— 
Bunsen's  experiments  —  Artificial  Geysers  .  pp.  155  —  174 


The  Solar  System  —  Earth  —  Moon  —  Jupiter  —  Saturn  —  Uranus 

—  Neptune  —  Mercury  —  Venus  —  Mars  —  Vesta,  Pallas,  and 
other  planetoids  —  Eelative  magnitudes  and  distances  of 
the  principal  members  of  the  solar  system  —  The  Sun  —  His 
diameter,  bulk,  and  mass—  His  distance  from  the  Earth  — 
His  apparent  motion  —  The  twelve  signs  of  the  Zodiac  — 
The  solar  rays  —  Planets  habitable  and  inhabited  —  Moon 
and  planetoids  not  inhabited  —  Fixed  stars  —  Constellations 

—  Coma  Berenices  —  Catalogues  of  stars  —  Classification  of 
stars  into  magnitudes  —  Number  of  stars  —  Milky  Way  — 
Nebulae  —  Distance  of  stars  —  Light  of  Sirius  —  Periodical 
or  variable   stars  —Temporary  stars  —  Dark  bodies  in  the 
heavens  —  Double  and  multiple  stars  —  Colour  of  stars  — 
Complementary  colours  in  double  stars       .  pp.175  —  196 

&  &sle  af  a  Comet. 

Family  and  pedigree  —  The  comet  protests  against  M.  Babi- 
net's  remarks  anent  his  kindred  —  Number  of  comets  — 
Bulk  —  Nucleus  —  Head  —  Coma  —  Tail  or  brush  —  Tenuity 
of  comets  —  Disturbing  influence  of  planets  and  planetoids 
upon  the  orbitsof  comets  —  Chance  of  a  collision  —  Cometary 
matter  not  luminous  —  Forms  of  comets  and  their  tails  — 
Length  of  tail  —  Comets  with  more  than  one  tail  —  Eccen- 
tricity of  motion  —  Parabolic  and  hyperbolic  orbits  —  Uses 
of  comets  —  -Absurd  and  superstitious  notions  respecting 
cometary  influences  —  Comet  of  1556  expected  in  1860  — 
Case  of  doubtful  identity  —  Cometary  influence  on  seasons 
disproved  —  Comets  with  fixed  periods  —  Halley's  —  Comet 
of  1680—  Comets  of  Olbers,  Encke,  Biela,  Faye,  De  Vico, 
Brorsen,  d'  Arrest  —  Winneke  and  Neslhuber  versus  Donati 

—  Supposed  period  and  distance  from  sun  of  comet  of  1858 

pp.  197—213 


Cfje  Enbisi&le 

The  revelations  of  the  microscope — Single  and  compound 
microscopes — A  drop  of  water — Minute  creatures — The 
globe  animalcule — The  wheel  animalcule — Microscopic 
plants — Diatoms— -Formation  of  rocky  strata — Beautiful 
forms — Bed  of  earth  composed  of  living  infusoria — The 
marls  of  Virginia— Chalk — Microscopic  fungi — Eggs  of 
insects — Scales  of  a  butterfly's  wing — Insect  anatomy — 
Pollen — Fissures  and  cavities  in  gems  .  .  pp.  215 — 229 

A  fanciful  tree — Bread-fruit — Cabbage-palm — Cow- tree — The 
papyrus  and  fan-palm — Pashiuba  palm — The  mangrove — 
Wonderful  cane — Australian  trees — The  Banyan — Sensi- 
tive plants — The  traveller  and  the  moss  .  pp.  231 — 242 

ffliobin^  3Lant»s, 

Glaciers — Regions  of  eternal  snow- — The  Neve — Rivers  of  ice 
— Moraines — Movement  of  the  glacier — A  moving  hut — 
Lost  knapsack- — Mysterious  noises — Theories  of  glacier 
motion  —  Saussure — Observations  of  Professor  James 
Forbes — Viscous  theory  —  Tyndall's  experiments — The 
plasticity  of  ice — Fracture  and  regelation — Ancient  glaciers 
—Time  slides pp.  243—253 

2Hje  ©nomes. 

The  home  of  the  gnomes — Wondrous  architecture  of  the 
stalactite  caverns— Science  and  superstition— The  Grotto 
of  Antiparos— Petrifying  springs — Tabreez  marble — A 
busy  scene— The  guardian  of  the  jewels— The  Koh-i-noor 
— Aluminous  and  silicious  gems — The  keeper  of  the  metals 


—  The  treasures  of  the  earth  —  Gold,  silver,  and  iron  —  The 
gnome  of  the  coal-mines  —  Use  of  coal  —  Varieties  of  coal 

pp.  255  —  276 

Division  of  the  universe  between  Jupiter,  Neptune,  and  Pluto 

—  Pluto's  share  —  Cerberus  —  The  river  Styx  —  Charon  the 
.ferryman  —  The  Acheron  and  the  other  rivers  of  the  In- 
fernum  —  Powers  of  Lethe  —  Migration  of  souls  —  Pluto  and 
his  court  —  Plutus  —  The  fatal  sisters  —  The  three  judges  — 
The  furies  —  Tartarus,  and  its  inhabitants  —  Elysian  fields  — 
Pluto  in  search  of  a  wife  —  Proserpine  —  Ceres  —  Interven- 
tion of  Jupiter  —  Danger  of  eating  pomegranate  seeds  — 
A  new  species  of  owl  —  Geological  view  of  Pluto's  kingdom 

—  The  realm   of  fire  —  How   the  earth  and    the    other 
planets  were  formed  —  .Internal  condition  of  the  earth  — 
The  earth's  crust  —  Density  of  the  crust  and  interior  of  the 
earth  —  Cordier's  thermometrical  theory  of  volcanoes  and 
earthquakes  —  Volcanoes  —  Craters  of  eruption  and  eleva- 
tion —  Mount  Vesuvius  —  Etna  —  Jorullo  —  Matters  thrown 
out  from  volcanic  craters  —  Mud  volcanoes  —  Aqueous  lava 

—  Earthquakes  —  Vertical,  horizontal,  and  circular  move- 
.ments  —  Earthquake  of  1755  —  Elevation  and  subsidence  of 

land  —  Submarine   eruptions  —  Sabrina  Island  —  Graham 
Island  —  Extinct  volcanoes  ......  pp.  277  —  307 

VLfy  W,oriDziM  2Lamp. 

The  story  of  Aladdin—  The  lamp   of  science  —  Genii  of  the 
lamp  —  Steam  —  Miracles  wrought  by  steam  —  Steam-power 

—  The  Leviathan  —  Construction  —  Dimensions  —  Mode  of 
propulsion  —  Passenger-arrangements  —  Britannia  Tubular 
Bridge—  Stephenson  —  An  impossible  task  —  The  strength 
of  a  beam  —  Monster  rams  —  Lifting  the  tubes  —  Aerial 
galleries  —  An  emblem  explained  —  Conclusion 

pp.  309—338 


"  Mighty  pre- Adamites  that  walked  the  earth 
Of  which  ours  is  the  wreck." — BYRON. 


a  time — if 
we  are  to 
believe  our 
Fairy  books 
— a  terrible 
race  of  mon- 
sters devas- 
tated this 
fair  earth. 
D  ragons 
and  Griffins 
roamed  at 
large,  and  a 

passing  visit  from  one  of  these  rapacious  creatures 
was  held  to  be  the  greatest  calamity  that  could  befall 
a  nation.  All  the  King's  horses  and  all  the  King's 
men  were  powerless  in  the  presence  of  such  a  foe, 
and  the  bravest  monarch  stooped  to  purchase  his 


own  safety  with  the  most  humiliating  concessions. 
The  dragon  was  allowed  to  run  riot  over  the  face 
of  the  country  ;  to  devour  the  flocks  and  herds  at 
his  pleasure ;  and  when  sheep  and  oxen  ceased  to 
gratify  him,  scores  of  beautiful  damsels  were  sacri- 
ficed to  allay  the  cravings  of  his  ravenous  appe- 

Sometimes  the  fastidious  monster  would  go  so 
far  as  to  order  a  princess  for  dinner,  but  he  gene- 
rally had  to  pay  dearly  for  his  audacity.  When  the 
monarch  had  exhausted  his  stock  of  prayers,  and 
the  poor  little  maiden  had  almost  cried  out  her 
eyes,  some  valiant  knight-errant  was  certain  to 
come  forward  and  challenge  the  dragon  to  meet  him 
in  the  field.  A  terrific  encounter  then  took  place, 
and  strange  to  say,  the  knight  invariably  proved 
himself  to  be  more  than  a  match  for  the  destroyer 
who  had  hitherto  kept  whole  armies  at  bay. 

As  instances  of  this  wonderful  triumph  of  Right 
over  Might,  we  need  only  mention  that  celebrated 
duel  in  which  the  Dragon  of  Wantley  was  forced 
to  succumb  to  the  prowess  of  Moore  of  Moore  Hall ; 
and  that  still  more  famous  combat  in  which  the 
invincible  St.  George  of  England  won  an  everlasting 

We  have  said  that  these  monsters  belonged  to 
that  mythical  age  known  as  "  once  upon  a  time ;" 
unfortunately  we  can  find  no  trace  of  them  in  au- 
thentic history,  and  we  are  compelled  to  admit  that 
they  had  their  origin  in  the  fanciful  brains  of  those 


old  story-tellers  whose  wondrous  legends  we  delight 
to  linger  over. 

In  more  credulous  times,  however,  these  monsters 
of  enchantment  were  religiously  believed  in,  and  no 
one  doubted  that  they  had  their  lairs  in  the  dark 
and  impenetrable  forests,  in  the  desolate  mountain 
passes,  and  in  those  vast  and  gloomy  caverns  which 
are  even  now  regarded  with  superstitious  dread  by 
the  ignorant. 

At  length  the  lamp  of  science  was  kindled,  and  its 
beneficent  rays  penetrated  the  darkest  recesses  of  the 
earth ;  roads  were  cut  through  the  tangled  woods, 
busy  factories  sprang  up  in  the  lonely  glens,  and 
curious  man  even  ventured  to  pry  into  the  secrets 
of  those  terrible  caves.  The  monsters  of  romance 
were  nowhere  to  be  found.  Triumphant  science 
had  banished  them  from  the  realms  of  fact,  with 
the  same  pitiless  severity  that  the  xincompromising 
St.  Patrick  had  previously  displayed  towards  the 
poisonous  reptiles  of  Ireland. 

The  poor  ill-used  Dragon  has  now  no  place  to 
lay  his  scaly  head,  the  Griffin  has  become  a  denless 
wanderer,  and  the  Fiery  Serpent  has  been  forced  to 
emigrate  to  a  more  genial  clime ! 

Fortunately  truth  is  stranger  than  fiction ;  the 
revelations  of  modern  science  transcend  the  wildest 
dreams  of  the  old  poets  ;  and  in  exchange  for  a  few 
shadowy  griffins  and  dragons,  we  are  presented  with 
a  whole  host  of  monsters,  real  and  tangible 
monsters  too,  who  in  the  early  days  of  the  world's 
B  2 


history  were  the  monarchs  of  all  they  surveyed, 
and  had  no  troublesome  Seven  Champions  to  dis- 
pute their  sway. 

We  are  on  the  shores  of  the  Ancient  Ocean. 
We  search  in  vain  for  any  sign  of  Man's  handiwork ; 
no  iron  steam-ship,  no  vessel  of  war,  no  rude  canoe 
even,  has  yet  been  launched  upon  its  bosom,  though 
the  tides  ebb  and  flow,  and  the  waves  chant  their 
eternal  hymn,  according  to  those  immutable  laws 
which  the  Creator  ordained  at  the  beginning. 

The  ocean  teems  with  life,  but  it  contains  no 
single  creature  which  has  its  exact  likeness  in 
modern  seas.  Its  fishes  belong  for  the  most  part 
to  the  great  Shark  family,  but  their  forms  are 
much  more  uncouth  than  those  of  their  savage  de- 


scendants.  No  whales,  dolphins,  nor  porpoises  are 
to  be  found  in  these  waters,  their  places  being  filled 
up  by  strange  marine  reptiles,  which  equal  them  in 
bulk,  and  greatly  surpass  them  in  voraciousness. 

Yonder  is  one  of  these  old  monsters  of  the  deep  :  * 
as  it  rests  there  with  its  broad  back  glistening  in 
the  sun,  it  might  easily  be  mistaken  for  some  rocky 
islet — but  see,  it  moves  !  Now  it  lashes  the  water 
with  its  enormous  tail,  creating  quite  a  whirlpool 
in  its  neighbourhood — now  it  raises  its  huge  head, 
and  displays  a  row  of  teeth  at  which  the  bravest 
might  shudder — and  now  it  darts  away  from  the 
shore,  leaving  a  wide  track  of  foam  on  the  dark 
blue  waters. 

*  The  Cetiosaurus,  or  Whale-like  Lizard. 


Another  member  of  the  Saurian  or  Lizard  race 
is  disporting  himself  in  a  little  bay  close  by.  The 
imagination  of  man  never  called  up  a  shape  so 
weird  and  fantastic  as  this,  in  which  we  see  com- 
bined, a  fish-like  body,  a  long  serpentine  neck,  and 
the  tapering  tail  of  a  lizard.*  As  he  paddles 
through  the  water  with  his  neck  arched  over  his 
back  in  a  graceful  curve,  he  looks  a  very  handsome 
fellow,  in  spite  of  the  somewhat  evil  expression  of 
i  his  countenance  ;  but  he  is  anything  but  handsome, 
if  we  judge  him  by  the  adage  which  restricts  the 
use  of  that  epithet  to  handsome  doers.  Look  at 
him  now,  how  eagerly  he  pounces  upon  every  living 
thing  that  comes  within  the  range  of  his  pliant 
neck,  how  cruelly  he  crushes  the  bones  of  his 
victims,  and  how  greedily  he  swallows  them  !  We 
never  witnessed  such  unhandsome  conduct  in  a 
monster  before.  Leaving  him  at  his  disgusting 
banquet,  let  us  now  penetrate  into  the  interior  of 
the  old  continent,  where  we  shall  encounter  some 
terrestrial  reptiles  of  a  very  formidable  character,  f 
We  are  in  the  heart  of  a  strange  wild  country. 
At  our  feet  runs  a  mighty  river,  whose  tortuous 
course  we  can  trace  far  away  on  the  distant  land- 
scape. The  scenery  around  us  is  grandly  pictu- 
resque, being  diversified  by  high  mountains  with 
harsh  and  rugged  outlines,  yawning  chasms,  swampy 
plains,  and  thick  forests.  Here  a  broad  stream 

*  The  Plesiosaurus. 
f  The  Dinosaurians,  or  fearfully  great  Lizards. 


dashes  impetuously  through  a  narrow  glen,  and 
there  a  placid  lake  glistens  like  polished  silver. 
Huge  masses  of  rock  arise  in  a  thousand  fantastic 
forms  on  one  side,  while  on  the  other  vast  desert 
tracts,  monotonously  level,  spread  out  as  far  as  the 
eye  can  reach. 

The  general  aspect  of  the  country  is  utterly  un- 
like that  of  any  modern  land,  and  we  gaze  on  the 
savage  panorama  before  us  with  mingled  feelings 
of  admiration  and  awe.  We  are  surrounded  by 
wonders.  The  vegetation  which  fringes  the  banks 
of  the  river  is  strangely  unfamiliar.  Some  of  the 
trees  remind  us  of  the  palms  and  arborescent  ferns 
of  the  Tropics,  and  others  seem  to  be  allied  to  the 
cypress  and  juniper,  but  they  all  belong  to  un- 
known species. 

The  air,  which  is  hot  and  oppressive,  swarms 
with  insects  ;  curious  flies  and  beetles  hum  around 
us,  and  every  now  and  then  a  huge  dragon-fly  darts 
past  like  a  meteor. 

Looking  towards  the  river,  other  more  striking 
forms  of  animal  life  meet  our  gaze.  Hundreds  of 
gigantic  crocodiles  are  swimming  in  the  stream  and 
lying  on  the  muddy  shore  ;  horrible  creatures  are 
they,  with  their  thick  coats  of  mail  and  sharp  elon- 
gated muzzles,  and  we  cannot  watch  their  ungainly 
movements  without  experiencing  an  involuntary 
sensation  of  disgust. 

On  the  oozy  banks  of  the  river  another  type  of 
reptilian  life  is  represented  by  a  shoal  of  fresh- 

.  '•# 


water  Turtles  which  we  see  crawling  along  at  a 
slow  and  steady  pace.  Now  one  of  these  sluggish 
fellows  stops  to  pick  up  some  dainty  morsel  (a 
mussel,  perhaps,  a  snail,  or  a  crocodile's  egg),  but 
the  exertion  appears  to  cost  him  no  small  annoy- 
ance, and  now  he  draws  in  his  head  and  prepares 
for  a  nap.  As  he  has  in  all  probability  a  hundred 
years  yet  to  live,  he  can  aiford  to  devote  an  hour  or 
two  to  digestion. 

'  But  hark  !  What  noise  was  that  ?  Surely  that 
harsh  discordant  roar  must  have  proceeded  from 
the  deep  throat  of  some  monster  concealed  in  yon- 
der forest.  The  Crocodiles  seem  to  understand  it 
perfectly,  for  see,  they  are  making  for  the  opposite 
bank  with  most  undignified  speed.  There  it  is 
again,  still  louder  than  before  !  Now  a  crashing 
among  the  trees,  followed  by  a  wild  unearthly 

Look  at  that  terrible  form  which  has  just  emerged 
from  the  thicket.  It  rushes  towards  us,  trampling 
down  the  tall  shrubs  that  impede  its  progress  as 
though  they  were  but  so  many  blades  of  grass. 
Now  it  stops  as  if  exhausted,  and  turns  its  huge 
head  in  the  direction  of  the  forest. 

How  shall  we  describe  this  monster  of  the  old 
world,  which  is  so  unlike  any  modern  inhabitant  of 
the  woods  ?  Its  body,  which  is  at  least  twenty  feet 
long,  is  upheld  by  legs  of  proportional  size,  and  a 
massive  tail,  which  drags  upon  the  ground  and 
forms  a  fifth  pillar  of  support.  Its  head  is  hideously 


ugly,  its  immense  jaws  and  flat  forehead  recalling 
the  features  of  those  grim  monsters  which  figure  in 
our  story-books.  Its  dragon-like  appearance  is  still 
further  increased  by  a  ridge  of  large  triangular 
bones  or  spines  which  extends  along  its  back.*  We 
should  not  be  at  all  surprised  were  we  to  see  streams 
of  fire  issuing  from  the  mouth  of  this  creature,  and 
we  look  towards  the  palm-forest  half  expecting 
a  St.  George  to  ride  forth  on  his  milk-white 

See  ! — some  magic  power  causes  the  trees  to  bend 
and  fall — the  dragon-slayer  is  approaching  !  Gra- 
cious powers !  It  is  not  St.  George,  but  another 
Dragon  nearly  double  the  size  of  the  first.  He 
proclaims  his  arrival  by  a  loud  roar  of  defiance, 
which  is  unanswered  save  by  the  echoes  of  the  sur- 
rounding hills.  The  first  monster  tries  to  conceal 
himself  behind  a  clump  of  trees  and  preserves  a 
discreet  silence,  being  evidently  no  match  for  his 
formidable  challenger. 

The  new  comer  is  certainly  a  very  sinister-look- 
ing beast.  His  magnitude  is  perfectly  astounding. 
From  the  muzzle  to  the  tip  of  his  tail  he  seems  to 
measure  about  forty  feet,  and  his  legs  are  at  least 
two  yards  long.  His  feet  are  furnished  with  sharp 
claws  for  tearing  the  flesh  from  the  bones  of  his 
victims,  and  his  teeth  are  fearful  instruments  of 
destruction,  each  tooth  being  curved,  and  pointed 

*  The  Hylaeosaurus,  or  Wealden  Lizard. 


like  a  sabre,  with  jagged  saw-like  edges.*  His 
disposition  is  decidedly  unamiable.  Look  at  him. 
now — how  furiously  he  tears  up  the  earth,  and  how 
savagely  he  looks  about  him  for  some  trace  of  his 
lost  prey  !  Now  he  catches  a  glimpse  of  the  crested 
monster  among  the  trees,  and  dashes  towards  him 
with  a  terrific  yell  of  delight. 

Alas  !  there  is  no  escape  for  you,  unfortunate 
Dragon !  The  great  monster  can  outstrip  you  in 
the  chase,  and  you  may  as  well  show  a  bold  front. 

Now  they  meet  in  the  hollow  with  a  fearful 
crash.  The  lesser  monster  is  determined  to  sell  his 
life  dearly,  and  with  the  aid  of  the  spines  along  his 
back  he  contrives  to  inflict  some  severe  wounds 
upon  the  huge  body  of  his  opponent. 

What  a  fearful  conflict !  How  they  snort  and 
roar  !  Now  they  roll  over  among  the  ferns,  linked 
together  in  a  terrible  embrace.  The  hero  of  the 
crest  is  the  first  to  rise — he  makes  off  towards  the 
forest,  and  may  yet  escape.  Alas  !  he  falls  ex- 
hausted, and  the  great  monster  is  on  his  track. 
His  temper  does  not  seem  to  be  improved  by  his 
wounds — how  angrily  he  tosses  his  head,  and  how 
fiercely  he  gnashes  his  sabre-like  teeth.  He  ap- 
proaches his  fallen  enemy.  Now  he  jumps  upon 
him  with  a  crushing  force,  and  now  his  enormous 
jaws  close  upon  the  neck  of  his  victim,  who  expires 
with  a  shriek  of  pain. 

*  The  Megalosaurus,  or  Great  Lizard. 


We  can  gaze  no  longer  at  this  awful  scene.  The 
battle  was  sufficiently  exciting  to  absorb  our  at- 
tention, but  we  have  no  desire  to  see  how  the  great 
monster  disposes  of  the  body  of  his  valiant  foe.  Let 
us  therefore  leave  the  river  bank,  and  visit  another 
portion  of  the  old  continent. 

We  stand  in  a  lovely  valley  surrounded  on  all 
sides  by  high  mountains,  whose  slopes  are  covered 
with  luxuriant  vegetation.  A  crystal  stream  mean- 
ders through  the  fertile  plains,  and  runs  into  a  fairy- 
like  lake,  upon  whose  margin  there  are  little 
groups  of  arborescent  ferns  and  palms.  The  whole 
valley  has  the  appearance  of  a  rich  garden,  and 
we  regard  its  varied  beauties  with  rapturous  admi- 

As  we  look  around  we  fail  to  discover  any  trace 
of  man — no  temple,  palace,  nor  hut  bears  witness 
to  the  existence  of  a  being  capable  of  appreciating 
the  charms  of  which  nature  has  been  so  prodigal. 
We  are  profound  egotists,  and  think  that  everything 
beautiful  must  have  been  created  for  our  especial 
advantage.  Here,  however,  trees  spring  up  though 
there  be  no  woodman  to  hew  them  down,  fruits 
ripen  though  there  be  none  to  gather  them,  and 
the  stream  flows  though  there  be  no  mill  to  set  in 
motion ;  in  fact,  the  age  of  man  has  not  yet  dawned 
upon  the  earth. 

We  have  already  seen  some  of  the  weird  inha- 
bitants of  the  Old  World  ;  this  valley  is  the  favou- 
rite haunt  of  another  and  a  still  more  remarkable 


creature,  who  loves  the  shelter  which  these  trees 

Yonder  is  one  of  these  extraordinary  monsters. 
He  has  just  emerged  from  the  forest,  and  is  march- 
ing towards  the  lake  slowly  and  majestically,  a  re- 
gular moving  mountain  !  His  legs  are  like  trunks  of 
trees,  and  his  body,  which  rivals  that  of  the  elephant 
in  bulk,  is  covered  with  scales.  In  length  and  height 
he  equals  the  great  lizard  we  have  already  described, 
but  his  whole  appearance  is  far  less  awe-inspiring. 
There  is  a  good-humoured  expression  in  his  face, 
and  his  teeth  are  not  nearly  so  formidable  as  those 
of  his  predacious  neighbour,  being  blunt  and  short, 
and  evidently  fitted  for  the  mastication  of  vegetable 

Look  !  he  is  quietly  grazing  on  those  luxuriant 
ferns  which  lie  in  his  path.  Now  the  foliage  of  a 
tall  palm-like  tree  seems  to  offer  a  tempting  mouth- 
ful, but  it  is  beyond  his  reach  :  there  are  more 
ways  than  one  of  procuring  a  meal — see,  the  huge 
vegetarian  places  his  fore-paws  against  the  stem  of 
the  tree  and  coolly  pushes  it  down.  Having  stript 
the  fallen  stem  of  its  sword-like  leaves,  he  plunges 
in  the  lake,  and  flounders  about  in  the  water  as 
though  the  bath  were  his  greatest  source  of  enjoy- 
ment. This  huge  herbivorous  monster  would  pro- 
bably be  no  match  for  the  cruel  creature  whom  we 
left  devouring  his  enemy  by  the  river,  as  all  its 

*  The  Tguanodon,  so  named  from  its  teeth,  which  resemble 
those  of  a  recent  lizard  called  the  Iguana. 


actions  prove  it  to  be  a  harmless  and  peaceably  dis- 
posed animal. 

Look  at  that  strange  bird  overhead  !  Its  body 
does  not  appear  to  be  larger  than  that  of  a  pigeon 
— but  what  enormous  wings  it  is  provided  with  ! 
Now  it  descends.  Is  it  a  bird  or  a  large  bat  1  Its 
wings  seem  to  be  formed  of  leather,  and  its  body 
has  anything  but  a  bird-like  form.  See  !  it  alights, 
and  runs  upon  the  ground  with  considerable  speed 
— now  it  jumps  into  the  lake,  and  swims  about  the 
surface  as  if  water  were  its  natural  element.  Again 
it  rises  in  the  air,  directing  its  course  towards  the 
spot  where  we  are  standing,  and  now  it  perches  upon 
a  fragment  of  rock  close  to  us. 

What  an  extraordinary  creature  j  it  is  neither 
bird  nor  bat,  but  a  winged  reptile  !  Its  head, 
which  is  small  and  bird-like  and  supported  on  a 
long  slender  neck,  is  provided  with  elongated  jaws, 
in  which  are  set  some  fifty  or  sixty  sharp  little 
teeth.  Its  wing  consists  of  folds  of  skin,  sustained 
by  the  outer  finger  enormously  lengthened  ;  the 
other  fingers  being  short  and  armed  with  powerful 
claws.  Its  body  is  covered  with  scales  instead  of 
feathers,  and  in  addition  to  this  strange  mixture  of 
bird-like  and  reptilian  features,  the  creature  is 
provided  with  the  long  stiff  tail  of  a  mammal.* 

Of  all  the  inhabitants  of  this  country  of  marvels, 
the  Flying  reptile  is  by  far  the  strangest ;  and  as  we 

*  The  Pterodactyle,  or  Wing-fingered  Lizard. 



gaze  upon  its  weird  form,  we  caunot  help  comparing 
it  with,  one  of  those  horrible  and  grotesque  imps 
which  are  described  so  minutely  in  monkish 

Again  the  scene  changes — the  country  of  the 
monster  fades  away,  and  we  are  once  more  in  our 
cosy  study,  surrounded  by  our  favourite  volumes. 

Perhaps  the  curious  reader  would  like  to  know 
where  the  marvellous  country  is  situated,  but  as  we 
do  not  intend  to  tack  a  long  scientific  essay  upon  our 
fairy-tale,  he  must  be  content  with  a  very  few  words 
of  explanation. 

All  that  remains  of  the  monsters'  country  is  a 
large  tract  of  land  or  delta  which  was  formed  ages 
and  ages  ago  at  the  mouth  of  a  mighty  river.*  The 
continent  through  which  this  river  flowed  now 
forms  a  large  portion  of  the  bed  of  the  Atlantic. 

How  can  we  know  anything  about  this  submerged 
country  1 — how  can  we  come  to  any  conclusion  re- 
specting the  kind  of  creatures  which  lived  and  died 
there  1  These  questions  will  probably  occur  to  the 
reader,  and  give  rise  to  certain  doubts  as  to  the  cre- 
dibility of  our  narrative. 

The  monsters  have    been   their  own  historians. 

They  have  described  themselves  in  the  gorgeously 


*  The  Wealden  Beds,  so  called  from  their  forming  a  district 
known  as  the  Weald  of  Kent  and  Sussex.  These  strata,  which 
were  deposited  at  the  mouth  of  a  river  rivalling  the  Mississippi 
in  magnitude,  occupy  the  whole  area  between  the  North  and 
South  Downs. 

14  THE   AGE    OF    MONSTERS. 

illuminated  volume  called  the  Stone  Book,  every 
page  of  which  is  formed  of  the  solid  rock.  The 
truth  of  the  matter  is  simply  this  ;  when  the  geo- 
logist came  to  examine  the  structure  of  the  old 
river  delta,  he  found  embedded  in  the  rocks,  broken 
and  water-worn  bones,  detached  teeth,  fresh-water 
shells,  fragments  of  trees,  and  even  the  bodies  of 
insects.  With  untiring  industry  and  perseverance 
he  classified  these  organic  remains  j  he  placed  to- 
gether the  gigantic  bones,  and  reproduced  the  forms 
of  those  enormous  creatures  which  are  now  repre- 
sented by  our  tiny  frogs  and  lizards  ;  he  examined 
every  leaf  and  fir-cone,  and  found  out  the  order  of 
plants  to  which  they  belonged — every  relic  he  sub- 
mitted to  a  close  scrutiny,  and  at  length  he  was 
rewarded  by  a  vision  of  the  ancient  continent  and 
its  inhabitants  as  they  existed  at  that  remote  period 
which  we  can  only  vaguely  describe  as  "  once  upon 
a  time." 

Puck.   ' '  I  go,  I  go  ;  look,  how  I  go, 

Swifter  than  arrow  from  the  Tartar's  bow." 

Midsummer  NigTifs  Dream. 

THAT  merry  wanderer  of  the  night,  Puck,  who 
boasted  that  he  could  "put  a  girdle  round  about 
the  earth  in  forty  minutes,"  was  a  sluggard  com- 
pared with  the  fairy  messenger  who  now  flies  hither 
and  thither  at  our  bidding,  with  a  velocity  which 
might  carry  him  round  the  globe  several  times  in  a 
single  second.  Four  and  twenty  centuries  have 
elapsed  since  Thales  of  Miletus  evoked  this  nimble 
Spirit  by  rubbing  a  piece  of  yellow  amber ;  just  as 
the  heroes  of  Romance  summoned  genii,  fairies,  and 
hobgoblins,  by  the  friction  of  rings  and  amulets. 
The  Greek  name  for  amber  was  electron,  and  thus 
our  Spirit  came  to  be  called  Electricity. 

The  ancients  were  ignorant  of  the  potency  of  this 
ethereal  being;  indeed,  their  knowledge  was  con- 
fined to  the  isolated  fact  that  amber,  when  rubbed, 
acquired  the  property  of  attracting  light  bodies. 

The  grander  manifestations  of  the  Amber  Spirit's 
power  received  a  religious  interpretation  ;  thus,  the 
forked  flashes  which  sometimes  darted  through  the 


sky  were  supposed  to  come  from  the  hand  of  the 
mighty  Thunderer,  and  those  fiery  meteors  which 
now  and  then  rested  on  the  javelins  of  the  Roman 
legionaries,  were  looked  upon  as  omens  of  victory 
sent  by  the  "War-god. 

It  was  left  for  modern  philosophers  to  trace  these 
great  phenomena  to  the  Amber  Spirit,  and  to  show 
that  his  presence  may  be  detected,  not  only  in  the 
fossil  gum  which  Thales  imagined  to  be  his  favourite 
haunt,  but  in  every  particle  of  dust  and  every  drop 
of  water. 

Let  us  now  describe  the  cunning  means  which 
man  employed  to  enslave  this  wild  Spirit.  Two 
hundred  years  ago,  the  fragments  of  amber  were 
laid  aside,  and  a  large  globe  of  sulphur  was  set 
whirling  on  a  vertical  axis,  whilst  it  was  rubbed  by 
the  hand.  By  this  machine  the  Spirit  was  dragged 
from  his  hiding  place,  and  made  to  reveal  some  im- 
portant secrets.  Flashes  of  light  issued  from  this 
revolving  globe,  and  balls  of  pith,  feathers,  and  straw 
danced  towards  it  as  though  endowed  with  life. 

Sixty  years  later,  the  discovery  was  made  that 
all  solid  bodies  may  be  divided  into  two  great 
classes,  namely,  those  which,  when  held  in  the 
hand  and  rubbed,  set  free  the  Amber  Spirit ;  and 
those  which,  under  similar  circumstances,  fail  to 
exhibit  any  attractive  force.  Amber,  sulphur,  and 
glass  belong  to  the  first  class ;  all  the  metals  to  the 
second.  It  was  also  found  that  certain  bodies 
allowed  the  Spirit  to  pass  along  them  with  great 


celerity,  while  others  completely  obstructed  his 

Towards  the  middle  of  the  last  century,  cylinders, 
spheres,  and  plates  of  glass,  were  substituted  for  the 
cumbrous  globe  of  sulphur,  and  with  these  new 
implements  man  began  to  forge  the  chains  which 
were  to  bind  the  subtle  Spirit. 

In  the  year  1746,  an  ingenious  Dutchman  actually 
managed  to  coax  him  into  a  glass  bottle,  coated 
within  and  without  with  metal,*  but  the  Spirit  soon 
escaped  from  his  narrow  prison  by  passing  through 
the  limbs  and  body  of  the  experimentalist,  who  re- 
ceived such  a  violent  shock  that  he  was  compelled 
to  take  to  his  bed.  This  incident,  however,  did 
not  deter  the  philosopher  from  prosecuting  his  in- 
quiries, and  his  endeavours  to  construct  a  secure 
prison  were  eventually  crowned  with  success. 

Six  years  after  this,  an  American  sage  summoned 
the  now  docile  Spirit  from  the  clouds  during  a 
thunderstorm,  by  means  of  a  boy's  kite,  and  thus 
proved  the  identity  of  lightning  and  that  force 
which  for  two  thousand  years  was  regarded  as  an. 
emanation  peculiar  to  rubbed  amber. 

The  nineteenth  century  was  heralded  in  by  the 
announcement  of  a  still  greater  fact.  A  learned 
Italian  now  found  that  he  could  dispense  with  all 
the  old  machinery  of  incantation,  and  evoke  the 
Amber  Spirit  by  the  action  of  acids  upon  metals. 

*  The  Leyden  Jar. 


He  piled  up  alternate  disks  of  zinc  and  copper, 
kept  separate  by  the  interposition  of  moistened 
pasteboard,  and  with  this  simple  apparatus*  he 
obtained  absolute  control  over  the  movements  of 
the  Spirit.  He  compelled  him  to  travel  along 
metal  wires  of  any  length ;  to  force  asunder  the 
elementary  atoms  of  water ;  to  bring  to  light  sub- 
stances hitherto  unknown,  and  to  perform  a  hundred 
other  feats  equally  wonderful.  The  Spirit  was  van- 
quished— the  lightning  was  chained — and  man 
reigned  supreme. 

It  had  long  been  suspected  that  the  magnet  owed 
its  peculiar  properties  to  the  Amber  Spirit,  but  the 
occult  relation  that  subsisted  between  them  had 
never  been  detected.  This  mystery  was  now  cleared 
up  by  a  Danish  philosopher.  He  caused  the  Spirit 
to  travel  along  a  wire  from  south  to  north,  and 
beneath  this  wire  he  placed  a  compass-needle.  The 
Spirit  passed,  and  lo  !  the  magic  needle  moved,  and 
assumed  a  position  at  right  angles  with  the  wire. 
It  no  longer  pointed  to  the  north,  but  obeyed  the 
peremptory  mandates  of  the  potent  Spirit.  New 
facts  were  soon  brought  to  light;  thus  it  was  shown 
that  the  Spirit  could  render  iron  magnetic.  A 
copper  wire  was  coiled  round  a  bar  of  soft  iron,  and 
our  Spirit  was  made  to  run  along  the  wire ;  the 
iron  at  once  became  a  powerful  magnet,  and  ex- 
hibited all  the  properties  of  the  loadstone. 

*  The  Voltaic  Pile. 


These  discoveries  enabled  man  to  employ  the  Am- 
ber Spirit  as  a  courier,  a  vocation  for  which  he  is 
eminently  suited,  as  the  speed  at  which  he  travels 
has  been  estimated  at  288,000  miles  in  a  second. 

Let  us  see  how  our  messages  may  be  con- 

In  London  we  have  a  pile  of  zinc  and  copper 
disks,  or  what  amounts  to  the  same  thing,  an  ar- 
rangement of  metal  plates  and  acids  which  we  call 
a  battery.  We  have  only  to  connect  the  extremi- 
ties of  this  machine  by  means  of  a  wire  to  set  the 
Amber  Spirit  in  motion,  and  he  will  continue  to 
move  as  long  as  the  connexion  remains  complete, 
but  will  stop  the  instant  it  is  broken.  His  route  is 
from  the  zinc  to  the  copper  through  the  acid  solu- 
tion, and  along  the  wire  back  again  to  the  zinc.  He 
will  never  leave  the  battery  at  one  end  unless  he 
is  quite  satisfied  that  he  can  re-enter  it  at  the  other, 
but  while  there  is  nothing  to  obstruct  his  course  he 
will  continue  to  circulate  through  the  arrangement 
without  exhibiting  the  least  sign  of  fatigue. 

Let  the  wire  which  connects  the  opposite  ends  ot 
the  battery  be  long  enough  to  reach  to  Edinburgh 
and  back  ;  and  at  the  northern  capital  let  there  be 
a  mariner's  compass  placed  so  that  the  needle  shall 
be  directly  below,  and  parallel  to  the  wire.  It  is 
evident  that  with  this  simple  apparatus  we  can  com- 
pel our  courier  to  travel  to  Scotland  and  back. 
Every  time  we  connect  the  homeward  wire  with 
the  zinc  end  of  the  battery,  the  Spirit  will  rush  to 
C  2 


Edinburgh,  and  cause  the  magic  needle  stationed 
there  to  move. 

The  deflections  of  this  needle  may  be  converted 
into  intelligible  signs.  They  can  be  made  to  spell 
words  ;  thus,  one  movement  may  stand  for  a  ;  two 
for  b  ;  three  for  c,  and  so  on  to  the  end  of  the  al- 

We  have  said  that  our  courier  will  refuse  to  leave 
the  battery  unless  he  be  provided  with  a  return 
ticket,  or  in  other  words,  unless  he  can  secure  a  safe 
passage  home  ;  it  does  not  follow,  however,  that  his 
homeward  path  must  be  a  wire,  as  by  a  peculiar 
arrangement  we  can  force  him  to  find  his  way  from 
Edinburgh  to  London  through  the  earth. 

We  have  supposed  that  only  one  kind  of  motion 
can  be  given  to  the  magnetic  needle,  and  that  the 
Amber  Spirit  can  only  be  made  to  travel  in  one 
direction,  that  is  to  say,  from  the  copper  end  of  the 
battery  through  the  wire,  and  back  again  through 
the  earth.  If  we  connect  the  wire  with  the  zinc 
end  this  direction  is  reversed,  and,  as  a  matter  of 
course,  the  Spirit  passes  over  the  needle  from  north 
to  south,  instead  of  from  south  to  north  as  before. 

This  new  direction  is  at  once  detected  by  the 
needle,  and  its  north  pole  moves  to  the  right, 
whereas  it  had  previously  moved  to  the  left.  We 
may  take  advantage  of  this  double  movement  in 
simplifying  our  alphabet ;  thus,  one  movement  to 
the  right  may  stand  for  a  ;  one  to  the  left  for  b  ; 
one  right  and  one  left  for  c,  and  so  forth. 


We  will  not  trouble  our  reader  with  any  more 
explanations,  but  will  confine  ourselves  to  a  con- 
sideration of  some  of  the  ingenious  methods  which 
have  been  devised  to  render  the  Amber  Spirit  a 
useful  messenger. 

Some  twenty  years  ago,  a  native  of  this  country 
proposed  a  system  of  five  wires,  in  connexion  with 
as  many  needles,  which  indicated  the  letters  of  the 
alphabet  at  the  rate  of  twenty  a  minute.  Attention 
was  to  be  drawn  to  the  signals  by  the  stroke  of  a 
bell,  the  hammer  of  which  was  moved  by  the  mag- 
netic force  which  the  Spirit  communicated  to  a  piece 
of  iron  ;  thus  the  ear  as  well  as  the  eye  was  to  be 
addressed.  He  afterwards  simplified  this  instru- 
ment by  employing  only  two  wires,  and  so  increased 
its  power  that  thirty  letters  could  be  indicated  in  a 

In  America,  another  philosopher  was  simulta- 
neously engaged  in  perfecting  a  still  more  extra- 
ordinary contrivance,  by  means  of  which  the  Spirit 
was  made  to  jot  down  an  alphabet  of  dots  and 
strokes  which  represented  definite  characters.  The 
marks  were  written  on  a  strip  of  chemically  pre- 
pared paper,  which  was  made  to  pass  under  a  fine 
steel  point. f 

The  Spirit  had  no  sooner  been  taught  to  write, 
than  man  set  about  teaching  him  the  art  of  print- 
ing. Behold  him  now,  a  master  of  the  art,  printing 

*  Wheatstone's  Telegraphs, 
•f-  Morse's  Telegraph. 


messages  letter  by  letter,  in  the  ordinary  Roman 
characters,  under  the  direction  of  an  operator  sta- 
tioned at  a  distant  city  !* 

The  Spirit's  education  was  not  yet  considered  to  be 
complete — he  had  to  acquire  another  accomplish- 
ment. He  could  communicate  intelligence  by 
means  of  moving  needles  and  revolving  dials,  by 
written  dots  and  printed  characters,  but  he  could 
not  yet  imitate  the  handwriting  of  the  individual 
who  forwarded  the  message.  An  ingenious  gen- 
tleman now  took  him  in  hand,  and  soon  made 
him  an  expert  copyist.  We  can  now  write  a  let- 
ter, have  it  copied  at  a  remote  town  in  a  minute 
or  less,  and  receive  a  reply  in  our  correspondent's 
handwriting,  almost  as  soon  as  the  ink  is  dry 
with  which  it  was  penned  !t 

The  philosopher  Thales  wondered  to  see  certain 
minute  bodies  fly  towards  a  piece  of  amber ;  but 
how  great  would  have  been  his  astonishment  had 
some  superior  intelligence  informed  him  that  the 
invisible  being  which  moved  the  particles  would 
one  day  be  taught  to  trace  figures  upon  paper 
exactly  like  those  just  written  by  some  one  far 
away  !  We  will  not  attempt  to  explain  the  action 
of  the  Spirit's  magic  copying-press,  as  it  would  lead 
us  too  far  into  the  dark  domain  of  chemistry. 

A  hundred  systems  of  communication  might  be 
enumerated  in  addition  to  those  we  have  noticed, 

*  Bain's  Printing  Telegraph, 
t  Bakewell's  Copying  Telegraph. 


so  great  has  been  the  intellectual  activity  of  the  last 
twenty  years. 

In  England,  America,  and  many  continental 
countries,  iron  wires,  plated  with  zinc  to  prevent 
rusting,  form  the  roads  along  which  our  ethereal 
courier  travels.  These  wires  are  supported  by 
wooden  posts,  erected  some  sixty  yards  apart  on 
every  railway  ;  they  are  not  permitted  to  touch  the 
wood,  but  are  passed  through  short  tubes  of  porce- 
lain attached  to  the  posts.  Were  we  to  omit  these 
little  tubes,  the  Spirit  would  shirk  his  duty,  and 
would  travel  no  further  than  the  first  post,  down 
which  he  would  pass  to  the  earth. 

These  aerial  roads  are  sometimes  rendered  impass- 
able by  fogs,  snow-storms,  and  heavy  rains ;  they 
are,  moreover,  seriously  affected  by  Amber  Spirit 
himself  when  he  takes  the  form  of  Lightning. 
During  a  thunderstorm  everything  goes  wrong,  and 
the  Spirit  having  escaped  from  his  thraldom,  sets 
man  at  defiance.  He  takes  possession  of  the  wires 
and  plays  a  hundred  antics.  The  signal  bells  ring 
without  ceasing  ;  the  needles  vibrate  to  and  fro,  or 
remain  for  hours  deflected  to  one  side ;  while  the 
printing  machines  strike  off  unmeaning  rows  of 
dots  and  lines,  or  long  sentences  of  an  unknown 

In  Prussia,  Saxony,  and  Austria,  copper  wires, 
covered  with  gutta  percha,  and  buried  at  some  little 
depth  in  the  ground,  are  employed  as  a  means  of 
communication.  These  subterranean  wires  are  not 


subject  to  the  influence  of  thunderstorms,  but  in 
other  respects  they  are  more  troublesome  than 
those  suspended  in  mid  air.  The  buried  wires  are 
greatly  affected  by  the  earth's  magnetism  and  other 
disturbing  influences  ;  moreover,  trenches  have  to 
be  dug  for  their  reception,  and  they  are  with  diffi- 
culty reached  when  deranged.  Thus  we  see  that 
each  kind  of  road  has  its  peculiar  advantages  and 

As  gutta  percha  effectually  cuts  off  all  communi- 
cation between  a  wire  and  surrounding  conductors, 
we  make  use  of  this  marvellous  substance  to  enclose 
the  wires  which  convey  our  Spirit  through  the  sea. 

The  practicability  of  these  submarine  roads  was 
demonstrated  in  1849,  when  a  trial  was  made  with 
two  miles  of  covered  wire  laid  in  water.  Soon  after 
this  a  cable  was  constructed,  which  enclosed  four 
copper  wires  covered  with  gutta  percha  ;  and  by 
means  of  this  cable  France  and  England  were 
brought  within  a  speaking  distance  of  each  other. 

The  Amber  Spirit  soon  gave  proofs  of  his  ability 
as  a  continental  messenger,  and  on  the  14th  of 
November,  1851,  our  great  morning  journal  pub- 
lished a  despatch  from  Paris,  dated  seven  o'clock 
the  preceding  evening ! 

Another  cable  was  now  stretched  across  the  Irish 
Sea,  by  means  of  which  England  was  able  to  ex- 
change civilities  with  her  sister  isle.  Others  fol- 
lowed, and  man,  emboldened  by  their  success,  now 
began  to  think  of  despatching  his  obedient  courier 


across  the  Ocean.  Europe  was  covered  with  a  net- 
work of  wires,  and  so  was  America — to  unite  these 
two  great  systems  of  communication  would  be  a 
feat  unparalleled  in  the  annals  of  Science. 

This  wondrous  feat  has  at  last  been  accomplished, 
and  the  two  great  Continents  are  now  connected  by 
a  cable  which  lies  at  the  bottom  of  the  Atlantic. 
At  Man's  bidding  the  Amber  Spirit  speeds  along 
this  tremendous  cable,  and  having  registered  a  single 
letter  at  its  further  end,  finds  his  way  back  to  the 
battery  through  the  pathless  deep.  Again  and 
again  he  makes  this  extraordinary  circuit,  until 
every  letter  in  his  despatch  has  been  registered  ;  so 
that,  in  spelling  a  word  of  one  syllable,  he  has  to 
perform  a  series  of  journeys  which  together  far 
exceed  the  length  of  Puck's  famous  girdle. 

The  Amber  Spirit  has  had  other  duties  imposed 
upon  him  besides  those  of  a  courier. 

He  has  been  taught  to  measure  time  with  great 
accuracy,  an  accomplishment  which  scarcely  seems 
to  harmonize  with  his  astonishing  fleetness.  Measur- 
ing time  must  be  a  tedious  occupation  to  one  accus- 
tomed to  annihilate  it ;  nevertheless,  clocks  are  moved 
by  our  versatile  Spirit,  which  have  neither  weights 
nor  springs,  and  which  will  go  for  ever  without 

We  have  seen  how  needles  may  be  moved  and 
bells  rung;  let  us  now  consider  how  a  pendulum 
may  be  set  in  motion.  A  battery  is  connected  with 
a  pendulum  of  peculiar  construction,  its  bob  being 


formed  of  a  hollow  brass  reel  on  which  a  long 
copper  wire  covered  with  silk  is  coiled.  In  the 
clock-case,  on  either  side  are  magnets,  fixed  so  that 
their  opposite  poles  enter  the  reel. 

Our  readers  have  already  been  informed  that  a 
magnet  freely  supported,  as  in  the  mariner's  com- 
pass, will  move  when  the  Amber  Spirit  passes  over 
it.  We  will  now  confide  to  them  another  secret, 
namely,  that  a  fixed  magnet  will  give  motion  to  a 
moveable  wire  along  which  the  Spirit  is  passing. 
We  shall  now  be  able  to  explain  the  motion  of  our 
magic  pendulum. 

As  soon  as  the  Spirit  is  sent  along  the  coil  of 
wire,  the  pendulum  moves  towards  one  side,  being 
attracted  by  the  one  magnet  and  repelled  by  the 
other ;  but  by  an  ingenious  contrivance  the  connex- 
ion between  the  coil  and  the  battery  is  now  broken, 
and  the  pendulum  falls  back  by  its  own  weight, 
again  to  be  pulled  aside  by  the  magnets.  The  pen- 
dulum is  thus  made  to  oscillate  ;  and  so  long  as 
there  is  power  enough  in  the  battery  to  force  the 
Spirit  through  the  coil,  it  will  keep  swinging,  and 
give  motion  to  a  series  of  wheels  acting  upon  each 
other  which  carry  round  the  hands  of  the  clock.* 

Other  methods  have  been  devised  to  render  the 
Spirit  an  effective  time-keeper,  but  the  simple  ar- 
rangement we  have  described  may  be  taken  as  the 
type  of  them  all. 

*  Bain's  Electric  Clock. 


The  great  peculiarity  of  these  wonderful  clocks 
s,  that  they  may  be  connected  by  wires,  and  made 
•o  keep  exactly  equal  time,  though  separated  from 
sach  other  by  hundreds  of  miles.  With  a  single 
>attery  of  sufficient  power  all  the  clocks  in  London 
night  be  kept  going  ;  and  what  is  still  more  extra- 
>rdinary,  the  London  clocks  might  be  made  to 
•egulate  those  of  Edinburgh  and  Dublin,  or  even 
hose  of  Paris  and  New  York  ! 

The  Spirit  has  been  employed  to  move  more 
>onderous  things  than  pendulums.  He  has  been 
aught  to  turn  a  lathe,  work  a  pump,  and  propel  a 
)oat  through  the  water ;  but  as  it  is  much  more 
expensive  to  evoke  the  Spirit  by  means  of  metals 
ind  acids,  than  to  raise  Steam  from  water,  he  is 
lot  likely  to  supersede  Steam  as  a  mover  of  ma- 

In  the  useful  Arts  the  Amber  Spirit  has  long 
)een  employed  as  a  worker  of  metals,  and  with  his 
issistance  we  now  cast  copper  medallions,  vases, 
ind  statues,  without  making  use  of  a  furnace  ;  we 
jild  or  silver  all  kinds  of  utensils,  and  cover  the 
nost  delicate  productions  of  nature  with  thin  films 
>f  metal.  We  will  proceed  to  consider  these  mys- 
;erious  operations.  When  the  Spirit  is  made  to 
;ravel  through  a  solution  of  copper,  silver,  or  gold, 
le  decomposes  it,  and  deposits  the  metal,  particle  by 
Darticle,  on  the  wire  which  conducts  him  back  to 
,he  battery.  Now  by  attaching  a  suitable  model  or 
nould  to  this  wire  we  can  procure  this  metallic 


deposit  in  any  shape,  and  by  substituting  any 
utensil  for  this  mould,  we  may  cover  it  with  a  film 
of  gold  or  silver.* 

We  have  not  done  full  justice  to  our  Spirit's 
abilities,  as  we  have  omitted  to  mention  the  many 
services  he  has  rendered  to  the  astronomer,  the 
geographer,  the  chemist,  and  the  physician ;  we 
have  said  enough,  however,  to  give  the  reader  an 
idea  of  his  versatile  powers. 

We  have  shown  that  he  can  travel  with  the 
rapidity  of  thought  across  a  continent  or  an  ocean  ; 
that  he  can  write  and  print  our  messages  in  the 
most  distant  places  ;  that  he  can  measure  time  as  it 
flies,  move  all  kinds  of  machinery,  and  melt  copper 
in  cold  water.  We  may  search  through  our  old 
fairy  tales  and  romances  in  vain  to  find  a  spirit 
capable  of  performing  such  miracles  as  these. 

*  The  Electrotype. 


"  Do  not  our  lives  consist  of  the  four  elements  ?" 

Twelfth  Night. 

WHAT  is  the  world  made  of?  According  to  the 
ancient  doctrine  of  the  Four  Elements,  all  things 
are  formed  of  fire,  air,  earth,  and  water ;  and  the 
varieties  and  differences  in  the  properties  of  bodies 
depend  entirely  on  the  proportion  in  which  these 
great  principles  are  mingled. 

While  we  confine  our  observations  to  the  external 
properties  of  matter,  this  beautiful  doctrine  seems 
incontestable.  If  we  kindle  a  few  dry  sticks  on  a 
cool  hearth,  we  may  remark  that  while  the  wood 
burns  there  rises  smoke  or  air  ;  the  smoke  is  fol- 
lowed by  flame  or  fire;  moisture  or  water  is  depo-- 
sited  on  the  hearth ;  and  ash  or  earth  remains. 

Everywhere  can  we  detect  the  presence  of  the 
mighty  elements.  Fire  can  be  set  free  from  innu- 
merable substances  ;  air  penetrates  the  pores  of  all 
bodies,  and  covers  the  world  like  a  mantle  ;  water 
forms  the  all-embracing  sea,  and  nourishes  every 
plant  and  animal  :  while  earth  enters  into  the  com- 
position of  all  solids,  and  gives  form  and  stability  to 
the  universe. 


Man  himself  seems  to  be  built  up  of  the  four 
elements,  and  according  to  the  first  theoretical 
system  of  medicine,  health  indicates  their  perfect  ba- 
lance, and  disease,  the  preponderance  of  one  of  them. 

Such  is  the  old  doctrine  of  the  Four  Elements, 
simple  and  concise  enough,  but  unfortunately 

Modern  science  has  satisfactorily  demonstrated 
the  compound  nature  of  fire,  air,  earth,  and  water, 
and  they  can  no  longer  be  regarded  as .  elements. 
By  the  term  element,  we  understand  any  kind  of 
matter  which  up  to  the  present  time  has  never  been 
decomposed  into  constituents,  and  which  conse- 
quently appears  to  have  a  simple  nature.  The  true 
elementary  bodies  may  be  compared  to  the  letters 
of  the  alphabet,  and  the  diversified  compounds 
which  compose  the  material  world  to  the  words 
which  form  a  language. 

Let  us  examine  the  imaginary  elements  of  the 
ancients,  and  see  whether  they  will  help  us  to 
arrive  at  the  true  solution  of  the  problem — what  is 
the  world  made  of? 

A  candle  in  burning  seems  to  disappear  com- 
pletely, and  when  the  combustion  is  over,  an  insig- 
nificant trace  of  ash  from  the  wick  is  all  that 
remains  to  the  eye.  According  to  the  Greek  philo- 
sophers, tallow  contains  an  ethereal  substance  called 
Fire,  which  being  set  free,  takes  the  form  of  flame  ; 
the  gradual  decrease  of  the  candle  is  therefore  ac- 
counted for  by  the  dissipation  of  its  chief  constituent. 


Before  we  can  accept  this  explanation  we  must 
be  quite  satisfied  that  Fire  is  a  substance. 

Wherever  we  perceive  light  and  heat  emanating 
simultaneously  from  a  combustible  body,  we  say — 
there  is  fire — but  we  can  bring  forward  no  proof  of 
the  material  existence  of  this  so-called  element. 
We  cannot  weigh  it,  measure  it,  or  put  it  in  a 
bottle ;  nor  can  we  imagine  it  existing  apart  from 
a  burning  substance.  Fire,  after  all,  may  be  nothing 
but  a  name  for  certain  phenomena  of  heat  and  light. 
These  two  great  forces  are  intimately  connected ; 
thus,  whenever  we  raise  a  solid  object  to  a  high 
temperature  it  becomes  luminous  ;  first  it  emits  a 
dull  red  light,  which  changes  as  the  temperature 
increases  to  orange,  then  to  yellow,  and  finally  to 
full  white. 

The  flame  of  a'candle  is  a  white  hot  cone  of  vola- 
tile matter,  which  we  vaguely  term  Fire — if  we  can 
discover  the  real  nature  of  this  cone  we  shall  be 
able  to  define  Fire  with  some  degree  of  accuracy. 

The  chemist  tells  us  that  nothing  can  be  abso- 
lutely destroyed,  and  that  what  we  call  destruction 
is  merely  the  conversion  of  a  visible  body  into  an 
invisible  one.  To  reconcile  this  statement  with  the 
gradual  disappearance  of  the  burning  candle,  we  are 
forced  to  conclude  that  the  tallow  is  changed  into 
an  invisible  gas  or  vapour,  and  escapes  into  the  air. 
Now  as  no  solid  can  become  aeriform  without  the 
agency  of  heat,  the  question  naturally  arises — 
whence  comes  the  heat  that  vaporizes  the  tallow  ? 


Everybody  is  familiar  with  the  fact,  that  a  con- 
siderable amouut  of  heat  is  evolved  when  water  is 
poured  upon  quicklime,  a  fact  which  illustrates  the 
great  chemical  law,  that  no  union  of  two  bodies  can 
take  place  without  a  change  in  their  temperature. 

The  intense  heat  emitted  by  the  flame  of  a  candle 
may  be  traced  to  chemical  action.  If  we  cover  a 
lighted  candle  with  a  glass  shade,  the  flame  will 
soon  begin  to  languish,  and  in  a  few  minutes  it  will 
expire.  The  flame  seems  to  rob  the  confined  air  of 
a  certain  virtue  which  is  essential  to  its  continued 
existence.  This  is  the  true  interpretation  of  the 
phenomenon.  The  air  contains  a  wonderful  gas 
called  oxygen,  which  combines  with  the  vaporized 
tallow,  just  as  water  combines  with  quicklime,  and 
their  union  is  attended  by  a  development  of  heat. 

The  phenomena  presented  by  a  burning  candle 
may  now  be  easily  understood.  The  tallow  is  melted 
and  sucked  up  to  the  top  of  the  wick,  where  it  is 
boiled  and  converted  into  vapour.  This  vapour 
combines  rapidly  with  the  oxygen  of  the  surround- 
ing atmosphere,  and  the  heat  evolved  is  such  as  to 
render  the  vapour  luminous.  To  bring  about  the 
combustion  of  the  candle  it  is  necessary  to  apply 
heat  to  the  wick,  but  afterwards  the  heat  which 
is  liberated  is  more  than  sufficient  to  sustain  the 

We  have  now  arrived  at  a  tolerably  clear  con- 
ception of  Flame ;  it  is  merely  volatile  combustible 
matter  heated  to  whiteness.  Fire  is  simply  a  con- 


venient  word  which  we  make  use  of  to  denote  the 
extrication  of  light  and  heat  during  combustion, 
and  the  ancient  notion  that  it  is  one  of  the  primor- 
dial constituents  of  the  material  world  is  no  longer 

Fire  is  often  spoken  of  as  the  destroying  element, 
but  we  must  bear  in  mind  that  combustion  only 
alters  the  state  of  bodies ;  there  is  no  actual  de- 
struction or  loss  of  weight  when  a  body  is  burned, 
though  the  products  of  combustion  may  be  invi- 

If  we  set  fire  to  a  small  fragment  of  phosphorus 
and  cover  it  with  a  dry  tumbler,  dense  white  fumes 
will  arise,  which  will  condense  on  the  sides  of  the 
glass  in  snow-like  flakes.  If  we  collect  this  white 
substance  and  weigh  it,  we  shall  find  that  it  is  more 
than  twice  as  heavy  as  the  phosphorus.  How  is 
this1?  The  explanation  of  this  apparent  anomaly 
is  simple  enough.  The  phosphorus,  in  burning, 
combines  with  the  oxygen  of  the  atmosphere  to 
form  this  white  compound,  which  is  known  to 
chemists  by  the  name  of  Phosphoric  Acid,  the 
weight  of  the  oxygen  is  therefore  added  to  that  of 
the  phosphorus. 

Some  of  our  readers  will  doubtless  receive  this 
information  with  astonishment.  It  seems  scarcely 
credible  that  a  substance  having  the  appearance  of 
snow  should  be  produced  by  the  union  of  an  invi- 
sible gas  and  a  yellow  wax-like  solid.  Chemistry 
is  a  science  of  marvels,  and  this  wonderful  dissimi- 



litude  between  a  compound  body  and  its  consti- 
tuents is  anything  but  an  exceptional  case  ;  in 
fact  it  is  this  change  of  properties  that  distin- 
guishes chemical  union  from  mere  mechanical 

Our  tallow  candle  is  composed  of  two  invisible 
eases  and  a  black  solid,  and  is  therefore  a  much 

o  ' 

more  extraordinary  compound  than  the  white  phos- 
phoric acid.  When  a  caudle  is  burned,  the  products 
of  the  combustion  are  invisible  gases ;  these  gases 
can  nevertheless  be  collected  by  the  chemist,  and 
are  found  to  weigh  more  than  the  original  candle. 
Coal,  coke,  wood,  and  other  combustibles  which  are 
employed  as  fuel,  likewise  form  gaseous  compounds 
with  the  oxygen  of  the  atmosphere.  This  is  a  very 
significant  fact,  for  were  the  products  of  combustion 
invariably  solid,  like  phosphoric  acid,  the  world 
would  long  since  have  been  buried  in  ashes. 

We  have  examined  the  first  of  the  so-called  ele- 
ments of  the  ancients,  and  have  proved  it  to  be  a 
manifestation  of  intense  chemical  action  between 
two  or  more  bodies.  Let  us  now  proceed  to  consi- 
der the  nature  of  Air. 

"  There  exists  a  certain  thing,"  says  a  philosopher 
of  the  sixteenth  century,  "  which  we  do  not  per- 
ceive, and  in  the  midst  of  which  is  plunged  the 
whole  xiniverse  of  living  beings.  This  thing  comes 
from  the  stars,  and  we  call  it  air.  Fire,  in  order 
that  it  may  burn,  requires  wood,  but  it  also  requires 
air.  The  air,  then,  is  the  life,  for  if  air  be  wanting 


all  living  beings  would  be  suffocated  and  die."  In 
all  ages  the  atmosphere  has  been  regarded  as  the 
great  source  of  life,  and  long  before  the  famous 
dogma  of  the  Four  Elements  was  propounded,  a 
Grecian  sage  declared  that  air  was  the  one  uni- 
versal principle  from  which  everything  proceeded. 

We  have  already  alluded  to  the  fact  that  com- 
bustible bodies  combine  with  a  certain  gas  called 
oxygen,  which  is  contained  in  the  atmosphere  ;  our 
readers  will  not,  therefore,  be  surprised  when  we 
tell  them  that  air  is  a  mixture  of  dissimilar  gases, 
but  they  will  marvel  greatly  when  we  describe  the 
properties  of  its  constituents. 

If  we  boil  some  mercury  or  quicksilver  in  a  closed 
glass  vessel,  in  a  few  hours  the  metal  will  undergo 
a  very  extraordinary  change.  It  will  lose  its  me- 
tallic character  entirely,  and  in  place  of  the  glis- 
tening fluid  we  shall  find  a  heap  of  bright  red  scales. 
As  these  scales  weigh  more  than  the  original 
mercury,  we  may  safely  conclude  that  something 
has  been  abstracted  from  the  air  contained  in  the 

If  we  now  take  a  lighted  match  and  plunge  it 
into  the  air  that  remains,  it  will  be  instantly  extin- 
guished; it  is  therefore  evident  that  the  abstracted 
something  is  oxygen. 

Let  us  close  the  vessel  once  more  and  apply  to  it 
a  strong  heat ;  the   red  scales  are  now  converted 
into  metallic  mercury,  and  the  air  regains  its  pro- 
perty of  supporting  combustion. 
D  2 


This  beautiful  experiment  proves  air  to  be  a  mix- 
ture of  oxygen  and  a  certain  gas  in  which  no  ordi- 
nary combustible  will  burn.  This  gas  has  been 
named  azote  or  niti-ogen. 

Oxygen  forms  about  one-fifth  of  the  atmosphere, 
and  nitrogen  nearly  the  remaining  four-fifths ;  to 
these  components  must  be  added  about  one  two- 
thousandth  part  of  a  gas  called  carbonic  acid,  and 
traces  of  another  body  called  ammonia.  Though 
these  two  last-named  constituents  bear  such  a  small 
proportion  to  the  others,  we  shall  presently  see  that 
they  have  important  duties  to  perform  in  the 
economy  of  nature. 

The  composition  of  the  atmosphere  is  everywhere 
uniform ;  we  may  bring  down  air  from  the  summit 
of  the  highest  mountain  and  collect  it  in  the  deepest 
valley,  but  we  shall  not  be  able  to  detect  the  slightest 
variation  in  its  composition. 

The  same  uniformity  is  apparent  whether  we 
examine  the  air  of  the  polar  regions  or  that  of  the 
tropics ;  whether  we  collect  it  in  the  densely  popu- 
lated city  or  in  the  untrodden  forest.  This  fact 
seems  all  the  more  wonderful  when  we  consider  the 
contaminating  influence  of  the  coiintless  exhalations 
that  are  continually  rising  into  the  atmosphere. 
The  clouds  of  smoke  poured  forth  by  our  chimneys, 
the  expired  breath  of  animals,  and  the  gases  that 
proceed  from  decaying  matters,  do  not  perceptibly 
disturb  the  equilibrium  of  the  constituents  of  the 
atmospheric  ocean. 


We  must  remember  that  this  aerial  ocean  is  some 
forty-five  miles  in  depth,  and  that  the  vapours 
which  arise  from  the  earth  are  rapidly  diffused 
throughout  its  entire  extent. 

The  atmosphere  exerts  a  pressure  upon  the  earth's 
surface  equal  to  about  fourteen  and  a  half  pounds 
upon  each  square  inch ;  and  it  has  been  calculated 
that  its  entire  weight  amounts  to  more  than  five 
thousand  one  hundred  and  fourteen  billions  of  tons 
— a  sum  which  words  may  express,  but  which  the 
human  mind  cannot  appreciate.  Our  readers  will 
gain  a  clearer  conception  of  this  enormous  sum  when 
we  tell  them  that  it  is  equivalent  to  the  weight  of 
a  solid  globe  of  lead  some  sixty  miles  in  diameter  ! 

We  have  said  that  the  atmosphere  contains  an 
aeriform  body  called  carbonic  acid.  Let  us  now 
see  how  this  fact  may  be  proved.  When  quicklime 
is  exposed  to  the  air  it  gradually  loses  its  caustic 
properties,  and  increases  in  weight ;  this  increase  of 
weight  depends  on  the  absorption  of  carbonic  acid 
from  the  surrounding  atmosphere. 

We  may  expel  this  gas  from  the  altered  lime  by 
heat,  and  collect  it  in  suitable  vessels  for  examina- 
tion. We  find  it  to  be  much  heavier  than  ordinary 
air — so  heavy,  indeed,  that  we  may  pour  it  from 
one  vessel  to  another,  like  water.  If  we  plunge  a 
lighted  taper  in  it  the  flame  will  be  instantly  ex- 
tinguished; and  if  we  substitute  a  mouse  or  any  other 
small  animal  for  the  taper,  the  poor  creature  will  be 


This  gas  is  the  chief  product  of  combustion  ;  our 
candles  and  fires  are  continually  pouring  it  forth 
into  the  atmosphere,  animals  expire  it  from  their 
lungs,  and  it  is  produced  in  every  case  of  putrefac- 
tion and  fermentation. 

Carbonic  acid,  so  fatal  to  animal  life,  is  essential 
to  the  life  of  plants ;  indeed  the  existence  of  the 
whole  vegetable  kingdom  depends  on  the  presence 
of  this  gas  in  the  atmosphere.  Carbonic  acid  is  a 
compound  of  oxygen  and  carbon  or  charcoal,  which 
substance  is  the  principal  constituent  of  all  plants. 
Every  green  leaf  may  be  compared  to  a  little  che- 
mical laboratory,  in  which  the  carbonic  acid  of  the 
air  is  decomposed,  the  carbon  being  retained  by  the 
plant,  while  the  pure  oxygen  is  cast  forth  into  the 

Vegetables  absorb  the  carbon  which  is  exhaled 
in  combination  with  oxygen  by  animals,  and  the 
two  great  divisions  of  organized  beings  are  thus 
indissolubly  connected  by  the  interchange  of  sub- 
stances necessary  to  their  existence. 

The  old  fable  of  the  Hamadryads  who  presided 
over  the  trees  of  the  forest,  and  who  died  when  the 
trees  were  cut  down,  shadowed  forth  a  deep  truth. 
In  the  fairy-tales  of  science  we  read  that  the  lives, 
not  merely  of  wood-nymphs,  but  of  all  living  crea- 
tures, are  dependent  on  trees  and  herbs  ! 

The  atmosphere  invariably  contains  a  minute 
portion  of  ammonia,  another  compound  body,  its 
constituents  being  nitrogen  and  a  gas  called  hydro- 


gen.  Ammonia  is  absorbed  by  water,  and  it  is 
therefore  brought  down  to  the  earth  by  rain,  where 
it  forms  a  valuable  manure  for  plants ;  its  impor- 
tance may  be  conceived  when  we  state  that  the 
nutritious  qualities  of  grain  and  other  vegetable 
stibstances  are  mainly  derived  from  the  nitrogen 
contained  in  this  aerial  manure. 

Watery  vapour  is  constantly  present  in  the 
atmosphere,  though  we  can  scarcely  call  it  a  consti- 
tuent of  air.  Its  presence  can  be  easily  demonstrated 
by  putting  some  ice  in  a  tumbler,  for  when  the 
glass  is  sufficiently  cool,  the  vapour  will  be  con- 
densed upon  its  outer  surface  in  the  form  of  dew. 

We  have  resolved  air  into  its  component  gases, 
and  have  thus  exploded  the  old  notion  of  air  being 
an  element. 

Our  investigations  have  brought  to  light  certain 
bodies  which  may  be  justly  considered  elements, 
namely  oxygen,  hydrogen,  nitrogen,  and  carbon. 
These  substances  have  never  yet  been  resolved  into 
constituents,  but  we  do  not  dogmatically  assert  that 
they  are  absolutely  simple  in  their  nature.  We 
call  them  elements  because  we  cannot  prove  them 
to  be  compounds,  though  it  is  not  impossible 
that  they  may  turn  out  to  be  such  at  some  future 

That  a  mixture  of  four  dissimilar  elements  should 
produce  the  life-supporting  atmosphere  is  a  fact 
that  may  well  excite  our  wonder.  Who  would 
suspect  that  the  mild  and  genial  air  which  envelopes 


our  planet  could  be  formed  of  ingredients  which 
separately  exhibit  such  striking  peculiarities,  and 
which  combine  in  other  proportions  to  form  com- 
pounds all  more  or  less  fatal  to  life? 

An  atmosphere  of  pure  oxygen  would  be  too 
exciting  to  be  compatible  with  long  life  in  animals, 
even  if  we  could  imagine  the  existence  of  life  in  a 
blazing  world  ;  for  not  only  those  substances 
which  are  generally  spoken  of  as  combustibles, 
but  even  the  metals,  burn  with  great  violence  in 

In  an  atmosphere  of  nitrogen,  animals  could  not 
exist  at  all ;  indeed  this  gas  formerly  went  by  the 
name  of  azote,  the  literal  significance  of  which  is 
"fatal  to  life." 

Two  volumes  of  oxygen  mixed  with  eight  of 
nitrogen  form  "  the  breath  of  life,"  but  when  these 
gases  are  combined  in  other  proportions  they 
form  compounds  which  have  very  different  pro- 

One  of  these  compounds  is  the  protoxide  of  ni- 
trogen, a  gas  which  may  be  inhaled  for  a  few 
minutes  without  danger,  but  which  is  incapable  of 
supporting  life  for  any  length  of  time.  When 
breathed  it  produces  great  mental  excitement,  and 
occasions  a  total  loss  of  volition.  The  person  who 
inhales  it  performs  a  hundred  strange  antics  ;  he 
talks  incoherently,  laughs  wildly,  sings,  dances,  and 
sometimes  fights  ;  he  feels  that  he  is  lighter  than  the 
atmosphere,  and  sees  all  things  under  a  new  aspect. 


In  old  times  these  extraordinary  effects  would 
probably  have  been  ascribed  to  some  mischievous 
demon  contained  in  the  laughing  gas,  and  the  "  bell, 
book,  and  candle,"  would  have  been  deemed  indis- 
pensable for  its  exorcism. 

Another  compound  is  a  colourless  and  invisible 
gas  so  poisonous  that  animals  plunged  into  it  in- 
stantly expire  ;  a  third,  a  corrosive  orange-coloured 
vapour,  equally  noxious ;  and  a  fourth,  the  well- 
known  liquid  called  aqua-fortis,  a  powerful  acid 
which  dissolves  copper  and  other  metals,  and  which 
destroys  all  organic  substances. 

Such  are  the  compounds  of  nitrogen  and  oxygen, 
the  very  elements  which  we  draw  into  our  lungs  at 
every  inspiration,  and  without  which  we  could  not  | 

Carbonic  acid  gas  though  incapable  of  supporting 
life  is  not  poisonous,  and  its  presence  in  the  atmo- 
sphere does  not  disturb  our  vital  functions.  Ani- 
mals may  be  drowned  in  pure  carbonic  acid,  but 
they  cannot  be  poisoned  by  it.  If  the  atmosphere 
contained  another  compound  of  carbon  and  oxygen, 
namely,  carbonic  oxide,  in  place  of  this  innocuous 
gas,  the  world  would  be  a  lifeless  desert,  as  carbonic 
oxide  is  an  active  poison,  and  a  very  small  quantity 
of  it  would  suffice  to  infect  the  air. 

The  philosopher  who  declared  that  air  came  from 
the  stars,  figuratively  expressed  a  great  truth.  We 
have  only  to  examine  the  wondrous  constitution  of 
the  gaseous  mixture  to  be  convinced  that  it  must 


have  had  a  celestial  origin,  and  that  the  potent 
elements  of  which  it  is  composed  must  have  been 
mingled  by  an  all-wise  and  beneficent  Power. 

We  have  resolved  Fire  into  the  phenomena  of 
light  and  heat,  and  have  separated  the  constituents 
of  Air  ;  let  us  now  summon  Water  into  our  pre- 
sence, and  compel  that  supposed  element  to  reveal 
its  true  nature. 

Water,  like  Air,  was  once  regarded  as  the  origin 
of  all  things  ;  indeed  this  belief  in  the  universality 
of  moisture  may  be  said  to  have  laid  the  foundation 
of  speculative  philosophy  among  the  Greeks. 

Water  exists  in  the  three  physical  states — the 
solid,  liquid,  aeriform.  By  adding  heat  to  liquid 
water  we  convert  it  into  aeriform  water,  or  steam  ; 
by  abstracting  heat  from  it,  we  change  it  into  solid 
water,  or  ice  ;  in  either  case  the  chemical  composi- 
tion of  water  remains  unaltered. 

We  can  demonstrate  the  compound  nature  of 
Water  by  analysis  or  by  synthesis  ;  in  plainer  lan- 
guage, by  resolving  it  into  its  elements,  or  by  form- 
ing it  from  its  elements.  Let  us  first  see  how  its 
analysis  may  be  effected. 

Some  chemical  compounds,  the  red  mercurial 
scales,  for  example,  are  decomposable  by  heat,  but 
Water  is  merely  vaporized  by  this  potent  agent. 
To  overcome  the  attractive  force  or  affinity  which 
binds  the  elements  of  Water  together,  we  must  call 
in  the  aid  of  some  substance  which  has  a  superla- 
tive affinity  for  one  of  these  elements. 


Such  a  substance  is  potassium,  the  lightest  of 
our  metals.  When  exposed  to  the  air  potassium 
rapidly  loses  its  metallic  character  by  combining 
with  oxygen,  with  which  gas  it  forms  potash  ;  we 
therefore  conclude  that  potassium  has  a  strong 
affinity  for  oxygen. 

If  we  throw  a  small  fragment  of  this  metal  into 
water,  it  takes  fire  and  burns,  while  swimming 
about  on  the  surface  of  the  liquid,  with  a  brilliant 
light  of  a  violet-red  colour.  When  the  combustion 
is  over,  no  vestige  of  the  potassium  remains,  but 
we  find  that  the  water  has  acqiiired  the  acrid  taste 
of  potash.  The  chemist  thus  interprets  the  pheno- 
menon : — Water  is  a  compound  of  oxygen  and  a 
highly  inflammable  gas  called  hydrogen ;  when 
potassium  is  thrown  into  Water  it  combines  with 
a  portion  of  its  oxygen  to  form  potash,  and  the 
heat  which  attends  their  union  sets  fire  to  the  libe- 
rated hydrogen.  It  is  not  the  metal  that  burns  so 
furiously,  but  one  of  the  constituents  of  water. 

Here  is  a  revelation  far  more  wondei'ful  than 
anything  we  find  in  our  old  story  books  ! 

Oxygen  gas  is  the  great  supporter  of  combustion ; 
even  the  metals  will  burn  away  in  it  like  tinder. 
Hydrogen  is  the  lightest  gas  known  ;  it  is  very  in- 
flammable, and  gives  out  an  intense  heat  while 
burning.  Water,  the  great  antagonist  of  Fire,  is 
built  up  of  these  two  fieiy  elements  ! 

Wherever  we  find  Water  we  may  be  sure  that 
these  two  elements  are  present.  We  may  detect 


them  in  the  water  of  the  boundless  ocean,  the 
placid  lake,  and  the  murmuring  rivulet  j  in  the 
floating  cloud  and  the  jagged  iceberg  ;  in  the  rain- 
drop, the  hailstone,  and  the  snow-flake ;  in  the 
jewel  that  glitters  upon  the  bosom  of  the  rose,  and 
in  the  tear  that  falls  from  the  mourner's  eye  ! 

Potassium  is  not  the  only  substance  that  decom- 
poses water.  Everybody  is  familiar  with  the  fact  that 
iron  rusts  when  placed  in  water.  Now  the  rusting 
of  iron  is  a  similar  phenomenon  to  the  conversion 
of  potassium  into  potash  ;  they  both  depend  upon 
the  absorption  of  oxygen.  At  a  red  heat,  iron  de- 
composes water  very  rapidly.  When  steam  is  made 
to  pass  through  a  long  red-hot  iron  tube  it  is  re- 
solved into  its  elements.  The  oxygen  unites  with 
the  iron  to  form  rust,  and  the  hydrogen  is  set  free. 
By  weighing  the  tube  before  and  after  the  opera- 
tion, the  chemist  is  able  to  determine  the  proportion 
in  which  the  two  elements  are  combined. 

In  a  hundred  parts  by  weight  of  water  he  in- 
variably finds  eighty-nine  of  oxygen  and  eleven  of 

We  may  employ  our  old  friend  the  Amber  Spirit 
to  separate  the  elements  of  Water,  as  this  versatile 
being  is  a  most  skilful  analytical  chemist.  The 
Spirit  can  set  free  the  oxygen  and  hydrogen  in  two 
distinct  streams  of  bubbles;  whereas,  the  human 
operator  can  only  liberate  one  of  these  gases  by 
forcing  the  other  to  combine  with  some  new  body. 

We  have  spoken  of  the  inflammable  nature  of 


hydrogen,  but  we  have  not  yet  explained  the  phe- 
nomena which  attend  its  combustion.  This  gas 
when  pure  burns  with  a  very  pale  flame,  the  pro- 
duct of  its  combustion  being  water,  which  escapes 
into  the  atmosphere  in  the  form  of  an  invisible 
vapour.  If  a  cool  tumbler  be  inverted  over  the 
flame  this  vapour  will  be  condensed  into  minute 
drops,  which  will  trickle  down  the  inner  surface  of 
the  glass.  The  combustion  of  hydrogen  is  there- 
fore a  manifestation  of  the  intense  affinity  of  this 
gas  for  the  oxygen  of  the  air. 

If  we  mix  the  two  gases  in  the  proportion  in 
which  they  combine  to  form  water,  and  apply  a 
lighted  match  to  the  mixture,  the  gases  will  in- 
stantly unite  with  a  deafening  explosion.  All  the 
water  produced  will  merely  suffice  to  damp  the  sur- 
face of  the  vessel  in  which  the  .explosion  takes 
place,  as  no  less  than  2550  measures  of  the  gaseous 
mixture  are  required  to  form  one  measure  of  water. 

Here  is  another  marvellous  revelation  !  The  two 
gases  have  separately  resisted  every  attempt  made 
by  the  joint  efforts  of  cold  and  pressure  to  liquify 
them,  yet  they  combine  and  form  water,  the  type  of 
liquidity  ! 

According  to  the  dogma  of  the  Four  Elements, 
everything  that  is  neither  fire,  air,  nor  water,  is  ne- 
cessarily earth.  Now  a  moment's  consideration  will 
convince  us  that  innumerable  bodies  having  the 
most  diverse  properties  are  comprised  in  this  defi- 
nition of  the  so-called  element. 


We  cannot  therefore  deal  with  Earth  as  we  have 
dealt  with  its  mighty  brethren ;  we  cannot  deduce 
any  general  conclusions  as  to  its  nature  from  the 
analysis  of  a  single  sample.  We  may  resolve  a 
particular  handful  of  soil  into  its  elements,  but  we 
dare  not  assert  that  these  elements  are  common  to 
the  multitudinous  handfuls  which  constitute  the 
solid  portions  of  our  planet. 

How,  then,  are  we  to  proceed  with  our  investiga- 
tions 1  Were  we  to  examine  in  regular  order  the 
various  compounds  included  in  the  ancient  concep- 
tion of  earth,  our  fairy  tale  would  assume  the 
character  and  proportions  of  an  encyclopaedia.  To 
preclude  such  a  result,  we  must  abandon  the  ana- 
lytical method  of  inquiry,  and  be  content  to  accept 
certain  comprehensive  truths  that  chemistry  has 
revealed  regarding  the  constitution  of  different 
kinds  of  earth. 

The  diversified  compounds  which  form  the  mate- 
rial world  have  been  resolved  by  the  chemist  into 
sixty-three  elementary  bodies,  fifty  of  which  are 
metals.  These  elements  are  rarely  found  in  a  state 
of  purity,  owing  to  their  strong  tendency  to  com- 
bine with  each  other. 

The  principal  ingredients  of  Earth,  are  compounds 
of  oxygen  with  certain  elementary  bodies  that  are 
never  found  pure  in  nature. 

Silica,  the  most  widely-diffused  compound,  con- 
tains oxygen,  and  another  of  the  metalloids,  or  non- 
metallic  elements,  called  silicon,  which  can  be 


isolated  as  a  dark-brown  powder.  Sand,  flint,  and 
quartz  consist  almost  entirely  of  silica ;  so  do  the 
granitic  and  siliceous  rocks  which  form,  so  large  a 
portion  of  the  earth's  crust. 

The  highest  and  most  extensive  mountain  ranges 
are  huge  masses  of  silica,  and  the  deserts  of  Africa 
and  Asia  are  vast  plains  of  the  same  abundant 
substance.  Silica  forms  the  sand  and  shingle  of  the 
sea-shore,  and  enters  into  the  composition  of  every 
soil ;  it  is  the  chief  ingredient  of  some  of  our  most 
precious  jewels ;  of  the  invaluable  transparent 
glass ;  and  of  the  stones  with  which  we  pave  our 
streets  and  build  our  temples. 

Alumina  is  a  compound  of  oxygen  with  a  very 
extraordinary  metal  named  aluminium,  of  which  we 
shall  have  to  speak  in  another  of  our  fairy  tales. 
Alumina  is  the  basis  of  every  kind  of  clay,  and  is 
only  second  in  importance  to  silica.  It  is  also  a 
constituent  of  our  rocks  and  soils,  of  our  gems,  and 
our  building  materials ;  and  we  make  use  of  it  to 
form  eartfonware,  a  substance  which  rivals  glass  in 

Lime  is  another  abundant  metallic  oxide  or  rust, 
its  base  being  calcium,  a  beautiful  silver-white 
metal,  which  burns  brilliantly  when  heated  in  the 
air.  In  nature,  lime  is  generally  found  in  combi- 
nation with  carbonic  acid,  one  of  the  constituents 
of  the  atmosphere.  The  well-known  substance, 
chalk,  which  forms  our  far-famed  white  cliffs,  the 
compact  limestones  used  in  architecture,  and  all 


the  elegant  varieties  of  marble,  are  examples  of  this 

The  solid  portions  of  our  globe  are  almost  as  rich 
in  oxygen  as  the  atmosphere  and  ocean.  Every 
rock  is  a  compound  of  oxygen  with  certain  metallic 
and  non-metallic  bodies.  Silica  contains  about  half 
its  weight  of  this  abundant  element ;  alumina  no 
less  than  one-third  ;  and  lime  two-fifths. 

In  some  compounds  oxygen  is  replaced  by  another 
metalloid.  Common  salt,  the  chief  saline  matter  of 
sea- water,  is  a  compound  of  sodium,  a  metal  closely 
allied  to  potassium,  with  chlorine,  a  remarkable 
gaseous  body,  which  in  some  respects  resembles 
oxygen.  The  glistening  yellow  mineral  called  iron 
pyrites,  contains  iron,  and  the  metalloid  sulphur. 
The  variegated  crystalline  substance  known  as 
fluorspar,  is  a  compound  of  calcium,  the  metallic 
base  of  lime,  with  Jluorine,  a  mysterious  body 
which  the  chemist  has  never  yet  been  able  to  pro- 
cure in  a  separate  state. 

The  so-called  noble  metals — namely,  gold,  silver, 
mercury,  platinum,  and  a  few  others — are  usually 
found  in  a  state  of  purity ;  sulphur  is  frequently 
met  with  uucombined ;  and  carbon  is  found  pure 
in  the  diamond.  With  these  few  exceptions,  the 
material  world  may  be  said  to  be  an  assemblage  of 
compounds  formed  by  the  union  of  thirteen  metal- 
loids with  fifty  metals. 

Plants  and  animals  are  almost  wholly  composed 
of  oxygen,  hydrogen,  nitrogen,  and  carbon  ;  hence 


these  metalloids  have  been  styled  the  organogens,  or 
organ-forming  elements.  The  chemist  tells  us  that 
wood,  sap,  starch,  muscle,  blood,  nerve,  and  all 
other  organized  substances,  result  from  the  combi- 
nation of  these  four  principles  in  varying  pro- 

Vegetables  feed  upon  inorganic  matter ;  they 
dei'ive  their  carbon  from  carbonic  acid,  their  nitro- 
gen from  ammonia,  and  their  oxygen  and  hydrogen 
from  water. 

Animals  are  dependent  upon  the  vegetable  king- 
dom for  their  sustenance.  A  large  number  of  races 
feed  directly  upon  herbs  and  fruits ;  others  prey 
upon  the  bodies  of  these  vegetable-feeders.  When 
animals  die,  their  bodies  suffer  decomposition,  and 
their  original  constituents — water,  ammonia,  and 
carbonic  acid,  return  to  the  atmosphere,  to  nourish 
another  generation  of  plants,  for  another  generation 
of  animals  to  feed  upon. 

The  elements  are  indestructible,  and  death  merely 
alters  the  arrangement  of  their  atoms. 

The  ancient  philosopher  contended  that  all  things 
were  formed  out  of  four  elements :  the  modern 
philosopher  declares  that  the  two  great  organic 
kingdoms  spring  from  a  few  invisible  gases.  The 
theory  seems  almost  as  credible  as  the  fact !  The 
following  words  from  the  pen  of  a  celebrated  che- 
mist,* read  like  a  page  of  some  wild  romance,  and 

*  Liebig. 


yet  they  deal  with  facts  that  are  incontrovertible  : 
"  Man  is  formed  of  condensed  air  (or  solidified  and 
liquefied  gapes).  He  lives  on  condensed  as  well  as 
uncondensed  air,  and  clothes  himself  in  condensed 
air.  He  prepares  his  food  by  means  of  condensed 
air,  and  by  means  of  the  same  agent  moves  the 
heaviest  weights  with  the  velocity  of  the  wind. 
But  the  strangest  part  of  the  matter  is,  that  thou- 
sands of  these  tabernacles  formed  of  condensed  air, 
and  going  upon  two  legs,  occasionally,  and  on  ac- 
count of  the  production  and  supply  of  those  forms 
of  condensed  air  which  they  require  for  food  and 
clothing,  or  on  account  of  their  honour  and  power, 
destroy  each  other  in  pitched  battles  by  means  of 
condensed  air." 

We  have  now  arrived  at  a  true  solution  of  the 
great  problem — what  is  the  world  made  of1? 

The  three  kingdoms  of  nature  are  built  up  of 
some  sixty-three  elementary  bodies,  endowed  with 
the  most  diverse  properties  and  affinities ;  each 
being  destined  to  perform  some  important  part  in 
the  great  system  of  creation.  Truly  has  it  been 
said,  that  the  powers  of  not  one  element  could  be 
modified  without  desti'oying  at  once  the  balance 
of  harmonies,  and  involving  in  one  ruin  the  economy 
of  the  world ! 

Although  the  ancient  doctrine  of  the  Four  Ele- 
ments has  been  exploded  by  chemistry,  we  must 
still  honour  the  mighty  sages  by  whom  it  was  pro- 
pounded. The  doctrine  is  not  wholly  false,  and 


were  we  to  confine  our  observations,  as  they  did, 
to  the  external  properties  of  matter,  we  should  be 
forced  to  acknowledge  the  justice  of  their  con- 

In  some  sense  the  world  is  really  made  up  of  the 
four  elements.  Fire  may  be  said  to  represent  the 
imponderable  agents — heat,  light,  and  electricity ; 
the  remaining  elements,  the  three  physical  states  of 
ponderable  matter,  namely,  the  gaseous,  liquid,  and 
solid.  The  difference  between  our  present  views 
and  those  of  the  ancients  consists  in  this,  we  regard 
these  states  as  mere  modes  of  existence,  while  they 
believed  them  to  be  distinct  principles. 

We  must  now  take  leave  of  the  Four  Elements, 
as  we  fear  our  readers  are  growing  impatient  for 
another  story  from  the  plenteous  budget  of  Science. 

fife  0f 

"  Why  may  not  imagination  trace  the  noble  dust  of  Alex- 
ander, till  he  find  it  stopping  a  bung-hole  ?" — Hamlet. 

THE  particles  of  matter  are  subject  to  strange 
vicissitudes.  Every  atom  has  its  peculiar  history. 
In  all  probability  the  countless  molecules  of  carbon, 
oxygen,  and  hydrogen  which  are  aggregated  into 
this  lump  of  white  sugar,  met  together  for  the  first 
time  in  the  juice  of  the  cane.  Where  were  they 
before  the  sugar-cane  was  planted  1  Who  can  tell  1 
One  of  these  atoms  of  carbon  may  have  coursed 
through  the  veins  of  a  Hottentot,  another  may  have 
existed  in  the  brain  of  a  Laplander  ! 

The  old  story-tellers  never  scrupled  to  endow 
inanimate  objects  with  the  faculty  of  speech.  Let 
us  follow  in  their  footsteps,  and  create  a  talking 
atom.  Such  a  gifted  entity  might  thus  recount  his 
adventures  in  the  three  kingdoms  of  nature  : — 

"  I  am  an  atom  of  carbon.  The  members  of  my 
family  are  innumerable,  and  are  disseminated 
throughout  the  universe.  Some  of  my  brethren 
are  grouped  together  in  those  diamonds  which  are 
so  much  prized  by  the  strange  atomic  fabrics  called 

54  THE   LIFE   OF   AN   ATOM. 

human  beings.  These  jewel-forming  atoms  are  much 
to  be  pitied,  though  they  give  themselves  great  airs, 
and  sneer  at  their  unaristocratic  relations.  I  would 
a  hundred  times  rather  be  the  roving  atom  that 
I  am,  than  one  of  the  molecules  of  the  Koh-i-noor 

"  When  the  world  was  young  I  led  a  very  steady 
life.  I  remember  forming  part  of  a  huge  mass  of 
rock  which  was  built  up  of  atoms  of  carbon,  oxygen, 
and  calcium.*  For  ages  I  never  saw  the  light,  and 
remained  in  ignorance  as  to  the  existence  of  any- 
thing besides  the  atoms  which  surrounded  me. 
Fortunately  I  was  situated  very  near  the  surface  ot 
the  rock,  and  in  course  of  time  the  atoms  above  me 
were  removed,  probably  by  the  drops  of  water 
•which  fell  from  the  heavens. 

"  Never  shall  I  forget  the  delight  I  experienced 
on  first  beholding  the  outer  world  !  I  thought  I 
should  never  be  able  to  bear  the  brilliant  sunlight, 
which  dazzled  me  so  that  it  was  some  time  before  I 
could  make  out  the  separate  features  of  the  scene. 
How  beautiful,  how  grand  everything  seemed ! 
and  yet  the  landscape  that  was  then  unfolded  before 
me  was  unenlivened  by  organic  forms ;  there  was 
not  a  tree  to  be  seen — not  so  much  as  a  blade  of 
grass — life  had  but  just  dawned  upon  the  globe. 
The  rock  of  which  I  was  a  constituent,  was  part  of 
an  island,  and  from  my  station  I  could  see  the  ever- 

*  Limestone,  or  Carbonate  of  Lime. 

THE   LIFE   OF   AN   ATOM.  55 

restless  ocean,  whose  atoms  danced  about  so  joyously 
that  I  longed  to  be  among  them.  At  the  foot  of  the 
rock  ran  a  little  stream,  which  probably  con- 
veyed some  atoms  like  myself  into  new  scenes  of 

"  Night  came  on,  and  new  wonders  were  revealed. 
Those  marvellous  celestial  atoms,  the  stars,  looked 
down  upon  me  with  their  sparkling  eyes  ;  and  the 
silvery  light  of  the  moon  gave  fresh  grandeur  to 
the  ocean  and  my  rocky  island.  As  I  gazed  upon 
the  glittering  waters  I  thought  of  my  poor  brethren 
who  were  deep  down  in  the  rock,  and  sighed  ! 

"  Next  day  the  sun  was  obscured  by  clouds,  and 
large  drops  of  water  fell  from  the  sky.  The  stream 
became  a  river,  and  dashed  through  the  valley  at  a 
headlong  pace.  The  atoms  constituting  the  rain- 
drops biiffeted  me  very  severely,  and  at  length 
their  blows  detached  me,  with  a  few  old  friends, 
from  the  mass  of  my  brother  atoms.  The  friends 
who  clung  to  me  in  the  hour  of  adversity  were 
three  atoms  of  oxygen  and  one  atom  of  calcium. 
For  countless  ages  we  had  been  united,  and  now 
the  rain-drops,  with  all  their  bluster,  could  not 
sever  us. 

"  No  sooner  were  we  detached,  than  a  stream  of 
moving  atoms  impelled  us  down  the  sloping  sides 
of  the  rock  and  hurled  us  into  the  river.  There 
could  be  no  rest  for  us  there.  The  rapid  current 
carried  us  through  numerous  valleys  and  gorges, 
and  finally  launched  us  into  the  ocean. 

56  THE   LIFE   OF   AN   ATOM. 

"  We  now  began  to  lead  a  new  kind  of  life.  The 
atoms  of  the  ocean  were  not  fixed,  like  those  of 
the  rock.  They  glided  over  each  other  with  perfect 
ease,  and  were  continually  in  motion.  As  a  matter 
of  course,  these  atoms  communicated  their  motion, 
to  us.  It  would  be  impossible  for  five  little  mole- 
cules to  stand  still  while  myriads  were  pushing 
them.  We  performed  some  wonderful  voyages 
during  the  ages  that  we  spent  among  the  oceanic 
atoms.  Sometimes  we  passed  from  the  Equator  to 
the  Poles ;  but  our  usual  course  was  from  west  to 
east,  in  which  direction  a  mighty  stream  of  atoms 
constantly  flowed  round  the  globe. 

"A  strange  mishap  forced  us  to  relinquish  our 
roving  habits.  In  traversing  a  chain,  of  rocks  we 
were  sucked  into  the  stomach  of  a  tiny  plant-like 
animal,*  whose  frame  was  built  tip  of  numberless 
atoms,  most  of  them  members  of  the  carbon  family. 
A  place  was  found  for  us  in  this  living  organism 
beside  certain  atomic  groups,  each  composed  of  five 
individuals  exactly  like  ourselves. 

"In  course  of  time  the  vital  force  which  had  aggre- 
gated the  various  molecules  into  such  a  wondrous 
system  ceased  to  act;  in  other  words,  the  animal 
died.  The  atoms  which  formed  the  soft  portions  of 
the  body  now  began  to  change  their  position,  and  in 
a  very  short  time  they  were  all  carried  away  by  the 
wandering  atoms  of  the  ocean.  As  for  me,  I  was 

*  The  Coral  Polype. 

THE   LIFE   OF  AN   ATOM.  57 

still  surrounded  by  my  four  friends,  and  still 
associated  with  numerous  five-fold  groups.  The 
creature  who  had  robbed  us  of  our  liberty  was  now 
no  more,  but  for  all  that  we  were  unable  to  move. 
We  were  fixed  to  the  rock  upon  which  the  or- 
ganism had  nourished ;  indeed,  incredible  as  the 
statement  may  appear,  the  entire  reef,  which  ex- 
tended for  some  hundreds  of  miles,  was  composed 
of  atoms  that  had  been  snatched  from  the  ocean  by 
innumerable  generations  of  those  gelatinous  little 

"  I  cannot  say  how  long  I  existed  as  a  constituent 
of  this  marine  rock.  An  atom  takes  no  heed  of 
time,  and  a  few  millions  of  years  pass  by  very 
quickly.  Time  affects  only  those  compound  entities 
called  plants  and  animals. 

"  The  surface  of  the  earth  underwent  some  strange 
mutations  while  I  was  a  rock  atom.  The  relative 
position  of  land  and  water  changed.  Mountains 
were  upheaved  by  the  internal  fires  of  the  globe, 
and  deep  valleys  were  eroded  by  rivers.  The 
waters  of  the  ocean  receded  from  the  reef  to  which 
I  belonged,  and  left  it  high  and  dry,  as  a  chain  of 
hills  in  the  interior  of  a  vast  continent.  None  of 
these  changes,  however,  disturbed  my  repose.  The 

*  The  barrier  reef  along  the  north  coast  of  Australia  is 
composed  of  a  chain  of  coral  rocks,  and  is  more  than  1000 
miles  long,  and  from  10  to  90  miles  in  breadth,  while  it  rises 
from  depths  which  in  some  places  certainly  exceed  1800  feet. 
What  a  mausoleum  for  creatures  so  low  in  the  scale  of  being ! 

58  THE    LIFE   OF   AN   ATOM. 

ties  which  bound  me  t'o  my  fellow  atoms  seemed 

"  At  length  the  rock  of  which  I  was  a  constituent 


was  subjected  to  a  new  mutation  by  volcanic 
agency.  The  pent-up  fires  of  the  earth  burst 
through  the  ancient  reef,  and  liberated  myriads  of 
its  component  atoms.  For  some  time  I  remained 
unaffected  by  the  commotion,  but  eventually  I  felt 
the  disturbing  effects  of  the  intense  heat,  and 
found  that  my  bonds  were  loosened.  I  was  no 
longer  a  rock  atom,  and  the  ascending  stream  of 
fiery  particles  bore  me  into  the  atmosphere. 

"  As  for  my  old  companions  who  had  hitherto 
shared  my  reverses,  only  two  of  them  attended  me 
now,  for  the  atom  of  calcium  had  persuaded  one  of 
the  atoms  of  oxygen  to  remain  with  him  in  the 
rock.  The  metal  was  not  fitted  for  an  aerial  life,  and 
did  not  care  to  be  separated  from  all  his  friends. 
What  a  marvellous  difference  the  absence  of  those 
two  atoms  made  in  the  group  to  which  I  be- 
longed. When  there  were  five  of  us  we  consti- 
tuted a  solid  molecule  ;  now  we  formed  a  compound 
gaseous  atom.* 

"  Who  can  describe  the  joys  of  an  aerial  atom  ?  I 
have  never  yet  been  a  part  of  a  poet's  brain,  and 
it  is  therefore  quite  out  of  my  power  to  set  forth  in 
appropriate  language  the  varied  pleasures  of  an  at- 
mospheric existence.  My  roving  life  as  an  atom  of 

*  Carbonic  Acid. 

THE   LIFE   OF   AN   ATOM.  59 

the  ocean  had  its  charms,  but  it  was  not  to  be  com- 
pared with -the  life  I  now  led  among  the  sportive 
atoms  of  the  air.  My  two  friends  remained  true 
to  me.  Indeed,  had  it  not  been  for  their  constant 
watchfulness  I  should  have  fallen  to  the  earth,  for 
I  was  not  buoyant  enough  to  float  unsupported. 

"  Sometimes  we  soared  to  a  great  height,  where  the 
aerial  atoms  were  very  far  apart,  but  we  usually 
kept  near  the  surface  of  the  earth.  How  changed 
was  the  aspect  of  nature  !  When  I  first  beheld  the 
outer  world  all  was  barren  and  lifeless,  now  every 
scrap  of  dry  land  was  covered  with  a  luxuriant 
vegetation.*  The  plants  were  mostly  of  great  mag- 
nitude, though,  strange  to  say,  some  of  them  were 
closely  allied  to  the  humble  ferns  and  tiny  mosses 
of  the  age  of  man.  I  have  seen  many  wondrous 
things  in  my  time,  but  nothing  to  surpass  those 
ancient  forests,  composed  of  ferns  as  large  as  oaks, 
and  mosses  seventy  feet  high  ! 

"  I  was  destined  to  become  a  part  of  one  of  these 
gigantic  mosses.  As  I  was  passing  through  a  forest 
with  myriads  of  aerial  atoms,  I  happened  to  strike 
against  a  leaf,  which  instantly  absorbed  me,  but 
allowed  my  two  companions,  who  had  never  been 
separated  from  me  before,  to  pass  on  with  the  rest. 
For  some  time  I  circulated  through  the  vessels  of 
the  living  plant  as  a  constituent  of  the  sap,  but  at 
length  I  settled  down  among  the  atoms  of  carbon, 

*  The  Carboniferous  Period. 

60  THE   LIFE   OF   AN   ATOM. 

oxygen,  and  hydrogen  which  were  aggregated  into 
particles  of  wood.  Such  are  the  vicissitudes  of  an 
atom,  now  literally  as  free  as  the  air,  now  a  captive 
in  the  tissues  of  a  living  organism  !  A  second 
time  the  hidden  processes  of  life  had  compelled  me 
to  part  with  my  liberty. 

"  I  have  already  alluded  to  the  mutability  of  the 
earth's  surface.  The  disturbances  that  took  place 
during  the  time  that  I  was  a  vegetable  atom  were 
of  a  very  extraordinary  character.  The  group  of 
islands  upon  which  the  monster  ferns  and  mosses 
flourished,  sank  beneath  the  waves,  and  in  course  of 
time  they  became  overlaid  with  beds  of  rock,  formed 
by  the  deposition  of  sand,  clay,  and  other  materials 
at  the  bottom  of  the  ocean,  the  sedimentary  matter 
being  hardened  by  heat  and  pressure.  Human 
beings  talk  of  the  stability  of  the  earth,  but  we 
atoms  know  very  well  that  its  great  characteristic 
is  instability.  Why  !  the  crust  of  this  so-called  im- 
movable earth  is  continually  bulging  out  in  some 
places  and  falling  in  others  ! 

"  I  did  not  lead  a  very  merry  life  in  the  depths  of 
the  earth,  but  still  I  did  not  repine.  Experience 
had  taught  me  that  I  was  a  creature  of  circum- 
stance, and  must  submit  to  my  destiny.  How  long 
I  remained  underground  I  cannot  say.  Millions  of 
years  may  have  flown  by,  but  they  brought  me  no 
change.  Numberless  atoms  of  oxygen  and  hydrogen 
that  were  associated  with  me  in  the  living  plant, 
forced  their  way  between  the  molecules  of  the  over- 

THE   LIFE   OF   AN   ATOM.  61 

lying  rooks,  and  thus  escaped  from,  their  subterranean 
prison.  I  was  too  firmly  attached  to  my  solid 
brethren  to  accompany  these  adventurous  atoms,  so 
I  waited  patiently  for  succour,  assured  that  it  would 
come  sooner  or  later. 

"  My  deliverance  was  effected  by  the  agency  of 
Man,  that  wondrous  being,  partly  composed  ot 
atoms  like  myself,  and  partly  of  an  immaterial 
spirit,  who  now  reigned  supreme  over  the  other 
organisms  of  the  world.  Having  found  that  the 
compressed  remains  of  the  ancient  forests*  could  be 
made  to  yield  light  and  heat,  agents  which  greatly 
contributed  to  his  happiness,  he  sank  deep  pits 
through  the  rocks,  and  transferred  me,  with  myriads 
of  my  brethren,  from  the  earth's  gloomy  depths  to 
its  sun-gilt  surface. 

"  Now  commenced  the  eventful  period  of  my  life. 
Hitherto  my  transitions  had  been  few.  Twice  had 
I  been  a  constituent  of  stone  ;  twice,  a  part  of  a 
living  organism  ;  I  had  tasted  the  pleasures  of  a 
marine  existence ;  I  had  floated  joyously  in  the 
air  ;  I  had  lain  for  ages  in  the  bosom  of  the  earth. 
But  in  the  few  short  years  that  have  elapsed  since  my 
release  from  bondage,  I  have  passed  through  a  far 
more  wonderful  series  of  changes. 

"  Let  me  now  recount  the  chief  incidents  of  my 
modern  career.     I  will  make  use  of  as  few  words 
as  possible,  lest  my  narrative  should  be  cut  short 
by  a  new  alteration  in  my  condition. 
*  Coal. 

62  THE   LIFE   OF   AN   ATOM. 

"  Soon  after  my  arrival  at  the  surface  of  the  earth, 
I  was  separated  from  my  brother  atoms  by  the 
process  of  combustion,  and  carried  aloft  by  two 
members  of  the  great  oxygen  family.  My  freedom 
was  of  short  duration.  Nature  had  set  innumer- 
able traps  for  me,  in  the  shape  of  living  organisms, 
and  by  one  of  them  I  was  soon  made  captive. 

I  now  became  a  part  of  a  grain  of  wheat,  and  in 
course  of  time  I  found  myself  in  the  stomach  of  a 
man.  In  the  human  frame  I  passed  through  a  definite 
course  of  vicissitude,  and  was  then  breathed  forth 
to  make  room  for  a  new-comer.  Once  more  I  enjoyed 
the  pleasures  of  an  aerial  life,  which,  I  need  scarcely 
say,  were  again  shared  by  two  atoms  of  oxygen. 

"From  the  atmosphere  I  passed  into  the  substance 
of  a  tree,  which  was  destined  to  fall  by  the  hand  of 
man  soon  after  my  absorption.  By  a  cunning  pro- 
cess the  wood  was  decomposed ;  its  volatile  atoms 
of  oxygen  and  hydrogen  were  set  free,  and  an  ag- 
gregate of  carbon  atoms*  remained. 

"  Man  had  not  yet  done  with  me  and  my  dusky 
brethren ;  he  had  separated  us  from  our  companions 
in  order  that  we  might  be  at  liberty  to  unite  with 
certain  atoms  of  iron,  and  thus  produce  a  substance 
which  he  greatly  prized,  f  This  strange  union  was 
effected,  and  in  course  of  time  I  became  a  part  of 
one  of  those  weapons  with  which  man  destroys  his 
fellow  man. 

"I  now  witnessed  some  fearful  scenes  of  bloodshed, 
*  Charcoal.  f  Steel. 

THE    LIFE    OF   AN   ATOM.  63 

and  being  an  atom  of  a  philosophical  turn  of  mind, 
I  often  speculated  upon  the  motives  that  induced 
those  short-lived  atomic  structures  called  men  to 
hasten  each  other's  dissolution.  When  I  speak  of 
these  scenes  as  fearful,  I  make  use  of  a  human  ex- 
pression, for  I  need  scarcely  say  that  death  can 
have  no  terrors  for  an  undying  atom. 

"  I  was  detached  from  the  metallic  mass  by  the 
agency  of  heat,  and  two  friendly  atoms  again  con- 
veyed me  into  the  atmosphere.  My  next  transition 
was  into  the  juice  of  a  grape,  where  I  remained  in 
peaceful  retirement,  until  man  induced  me  to  be- 
come a  constituent  of  a  bright  and  sparkling  liquid, 
which  he  confined  in  strong  glass  bottles.*  How 
long  I  remained  a  pi'isoner  I  cannot  say,  but  as 
soon  as  my  bottle  was  opened  I  made  my  escape  in 
a  bubble  of  gas.  After  a  short  flight  through  the 
air,  I  passed  into  a  blade  of  grass,  and  thence  into 
the  huge  frame  of  an  ox. 

"  The  next  change  in  my  condition  was  brought 
about  by  human  agency,  and  I  became  a  constitu- 
ent of  a  volatile  and  colourless  liquid,  which  was 
such  a  terrible  poison  that  a  few  drops  of  it  would 
suffice  to  kill  the  largest  animal. t  Now,  it  so  hap- 
pened that  a  foolish  man  swallowed  a  small  quan- 
tity of  this  liquid.  He  grasped  the  little  phial 
which  contained  the  poison  with  a  trembling  hand, 
he  raised  it  to  his  lips,  and  in  another  moment  I  found 
myself  in  his  lifeless  body.  A  simple  atom  can 
*  Champagne.  +  Prussic  Acid. 

64  THE    LIFE    OF    AN    ATOM. 

form  no  idea  of  the  motives  which  induce  composite 
beings  to  perform  certain  actions,  but  as  far  as  I  can 
judge,  this  self-destruction  seems  to  be  unworthy  of 
a  being  like  man. 

"When  I  escaped  from  the  dead  body,  I  passed 
into  the  vegetable  kingdom,  where  I  became  a  part 
of  a  beautiful  flower.  Soon  after,  I  found  myself 
in  the  body  of  a  bee,  and  in  course  of  time  I  became 
a  constituent  of  one  of  the  waxen  cells  which  the 
little  artisan  had  so  cleverly  constructed.  From 
the  honeycomb  I  passed  into  a  wax  taper,  from 
which  I  was  released  by  the  process  of  combustion. 

"It  was  now  my  lot  to  spend  some  time  among  the 
aerial  atoms;  but  at  length  I  came  in  contact  with  the 
sugar-cane,  and  became  a  constituent  of  the  sweet 
juice  from  which  the  lump  of  sugar  was  extracted. 

"  Such  is  the  story  of  my  life,  or  rather  of  a  frag- 
ment of  my  life.  I  enjoy  perpetual  youth.  To- 
day I  may  be  buried  in  a  mass  of  corruption,  but 
to-niorrow  I  may  form  a  part  of  a  newly-opened 
rose.  Time  cannot  reach  me ;  his  hour-glass  may 
be  broken  and  his  scythe  may  be  shattered,  but  still 
I  shall  exist.  At  the  present  moment  I  am  joined 
to  countless  atoms,  indestructible  and  eternal  like 
myself,  in  a  fragment  of  sugar,  but  who  can  tell 
where  I  shall  be  in  a  year's  time  !" 

This  peroration  has  been  cut  short  by  our  first- 
born, who  has  run  away  with  the  lump  of  sugar, 
and  we  have  every  reason  to  believe  that  the  atom 
is  undergoing  new  transitions. 

fifth  lit. 

"  Many  a  little,  makes  a  mickle." — OLD  PROVERB. 

IN  the  foregoing  pages  we  have  assumed  that  all 
things  are  made  up  of  very  little  bits,  called  atoms. 
This  view  of  the  nature  of  matter  is  purely  conjec- 
tural, but  it  agrees  so  well  with  the  truths  revealed 
by  Science,  that  we  must  admit  it  to  be  highly  pro- 
bable. Let  us  descend  for  a  while  from  the  realms 
of  imagination,  and  lay  before  our  reader  the  facts 
upon  which  the  beautiful  theory  of  atoms  is  based. 

The  word  "atom"  is  derived  from  the  Greek  lan- 
guage, and  signifies  "  that  which  cannot  be  cut," — a 
very  appropriate  term,  for  an  atom  being  the 
smallest  possible  particle  of  a  substance,  must  neces- 
sarily be  indivisible.  The  existence  of  half  an  atom 
is  inadmissible,  because  the  mind  cannot  form  an 
idea  of  a  particle  smaller  than  the  smallest. 

Philosophers  are  divided  in  their  opinions  re- 
specting the  nature  of  the  ultimate  particles  of  mat- 
ter :  some  maintain  that  they  are  hard  and  solid, 


66  A   LITTLE   BIT. 

and  therefore  of  a  definite  size  and  weight,  though 
so  minute  as  to  defy  all  our  optical  instruments  to 
enable  us  to  perceive  them ;  others  hold  them  to  be 
mere  points  or  centres  of  force,  destitute  of  solidity 
and  magnitude.  What  is  an  atom  1  This  is  a  pro- 
blem which  the  human  mind  can  never  solve,  it  can 
only  throw  out  shrewd  guesses  at  the  truth.  We 
will,  however,  take  it  for  granted  that  the  ultimate 
particles  of  matter  are  indivisible  and  indestructible, 
without  wasting  our  time  on  metaphysical  subtleties. 
Though  we  can  form  no  conception  of  the  abso- 
lute size  of  atoms,  the  wonderful  divisibility  of  mat- 
ter furnishes  many  proofs  of  their  extreme  minute- 
ness. The  gold-beater  hammers  out  a  single  grain 
of  the  precious  metal  until  it  covers  forty-nine 
square  inches.  Now,  each  square  inch  of  this  gold 
leaf  may  readily  be  cut  into  a  hundred  strips,  and 
each  strip  into  a  hundred  pieces,  each  of  which  is 
distinctly  visible  to  the  unaided  eye.  A  single 
grain  of  gold  may  thus  be  subdivided  into  490,000 
visible  parts.  But  this  is  not  all ;  if  attached  to  a 
slip  of  glass  the  leaf  may  be  subdivided  still  further, 
as  ten  thousand  lines  may  then  be  ruled  in  the 
space  of  a  square  inch,  and  in  this  manner  the  en- 
tire leaf,  weighing  but  a  grain,  may  be  cut  into 
4,900,000,000  fragments,  each  visible  by  meansof  the 
microscope.  As  we  require  no  less  than  ten  figures 
to  express  the  number  of  parts  into  which  a  grain 
of  matter  may  be  subdivided  by  mechanical  means, 
and  as  each  of  these  parts  must  contain  a  vast 

A   LITTLE    BIT.  67 

number  of  particles,  we  see  that  an  atom  must  be 
a  very  little  bit  indeed  !  But  gold  furnishes  a  still 
more  remarkable  instance  of  the  extension  of  mat- 
ter. The  gilt  wire  used  in  embroidery  is  formed 
by  extending  gold  over  the  surface  of  silver.  A 
very  little  gold  is  made  to  go  a  very  long  way,  for 
each  grain  is  spread  over  a  surface  of  nearly  ten 
thousand  square  inches. 

In  the  animal  and  vegetable  kingdoms  we  meet 
with  some  surprising  instances  of  the  divisibility  of 
matter.  The  microscope  reveals  the  existence  of 
animals  so  wonderfully  minute  that  it  takes  a 
hundred  millions  of  them  to  weigh  a  grain,  yet 
each  creature  is  possessed  of  distinct  organs,  and 
must  be  composed  of  innumerable  atoms. 

The  spores  of  the  lycoperdon  or  puff-ball  are 
found  to  be  little  orange-coloured  globes,  and 
although  each  spore  is  capable  of  becoming  a  living 
plant,  no  less  than  125,000  of  them  would  be  re- 
quisite to  form  a  single  globe  of  the  diameter  of  a 
human  hair. 

The  sense  of  smell  enables  us  to  perceive  particles 
of  whose  magnitude  we  can  form  no  adequate  con- 
ception. Odour  is  simply  the  disengagement  of 
the  volatile  particles  of  a  substance,  yet  a  single 
grain  of  musk  has  been  known  to  perfume  a  large 
room  for  the  space  of  twenty  years  ! 

We  may  rest  assured,  then,  that  the  atoms  of 
matter  are  exceedingly  minute,  though  their  actual 
size  can  never  be  determined  by  our  powers  of  per- 

68  A   LITTLE   BIT. 

ception.      Let  us  now  consider  the  aggregation  of 
these  little  bits  into  masses. 

The  force  which  holds  the  atoms  together  is  called 
cohesion;  it  is  greater  in  solids  than  in  liquids, 
while  in  aeriform  bodies  it  seems  to  be  altogether 

We  have  every  reason  to  believe  that  the  ultimate 
particles  of  a  body  are  never  in  actual  contact,  but 
are  placed  at  a  certain  distance  from  each  other,  so 
that  there  exists  around  every  individual  particle  a 
space  void  of  matter.  All  bodies  are  more  or  less 
compressible,  and  unless  we  acknowledge  the  exis- 
tence of  these  empty  spaces  we  must  suppose  that 
two  or  more  particles  are  capable  of  occupying  the 
same  place  at  the  same  time  :  a  supposition  which  is 
opposed  to  the  notion  of  an  atom  having  a  definite  size. 

A  volume  of  air  can  be  compressed  into  a  space  a 
thousand  times  smaller  than  that  which  it  originally 
occupied,  and  we  must  therefore  conclude  that  the 
atoms  of  air  are  separated  by  wide  intervals.  Solids 
and  liquids  must  also  have  interstices  or  pores 
between  their  particles,  as  they  invariably  expand 
when  heated  and  contract  when  exposed  to  a  low 

The  porosity  of  gold  was  demonstrated  some  two 
hundred  years  ago  by  the  famous  Florentine  experi- 
ment. A.  hollow  ball  of  the  precious  metal,  filled 
with  water,  was  submitted  to  a  great  pressure,  by 
which  the  fluid  was  made  to  ooze  through  its  pores 
and  bedew  its  outer  surface. 

A   LITTLE   BIT.  69 

The  distance  between  the  particles  of  matter  is 
greater  in  liquids  than  in  solids,  and  greatest  in 
gases  and  vapours.  It  is  highly  probable  that  all 
bodies,  even  the  densest  metals,  contain  more  space 
than  matter — in  other  words,  that  the  atoms  are 
much  smaller  than  the  spaces  which  separate  them. 
Some  of  our  greatest  philosophers  have  held  the 
atoms  of  matter  to  be  immeasurably  small,  compared 
with  their  surrounding  spaces. 

Newton  thought  that  the  whole  material  world 
might  be  compressed  into  the  space  of  a  single  cubic 
inch,  provided  that  its  particles  could  be  brought 
into  actual  contact. 

Sir  John  Herschel  compares  a  ray  of  light  pene- 
trating glass,  to  a  bird  threading  the  mazes  of  a 
forest  ;  and  says  that  there  is  no  absurdity  in  imagi- 
ning the  atoms  of  a  solid  to  be  as  thinly  distributed 
through  the  space  it  occupies  as  the  stars  that  com- 
pose a  nebula. 

We  need  scarcely  say  that  these  hidden  truths  do 
not  fall  within  the  sphere  of  scientific  inquiry,  but 
can  only  be  subjects  for  the  exercise  of  speculation. 
All  our  instruments  are  far  too  clumsy  to  help  us 
to  a  knowledge  of  atomic  magnitudes  ;  the  compasses 
that  can  measure  the  interval  that  separates  particle 
from  particle,  and  the  scale  that  will  turn  with  the 
weight  of  an  atom,  do  not  belong  to  man,  though 
the  imagination  may  picture  such  delicate  contri- 
vances in  the  laboratory  of  a  scientific  fairy. 

These  considerations  lead  us  to  a  subject  about 

70  A   LITTLE   BIT. 

which  we  do  know  something,  namely,  the  relative 
weights  of  the  ultimate  particles  or  atoms  of  bodies. 

Chemistry  has  revealed  the  existence  of  some 
sixty-three  elementary  bodies,  or,  according  to  the 
atomic  theory,  sixty-three  different  kinds  of  atoms. 
Now,  although  we  cannot  ascertain  the  actual  weight 
of  a  single  atom,  we  have  good  grounds  for  believing 
that  an  atom  of  oxygen  is  heavier  than  an  atom  of 
carbon  and  lighter  than  one  of  sulphur.  Before  we 
enter  into  this  subject,  we  have  a  few  words  about  the 
great  man  who  revived  the  ancient  theory  of  atoms, 
and  made  use  of  it  to  explain  the  mysterious  laws 
of  chemical  combination. 

John  Dalton  was  born  in  Westmoreland,  in  the 
latter  portion  of  the  last  century,  and  belonged  to 
the  sect  of  Quakers.  When  very  young  he  resided 
with  Mr.  Goxagh,  of  Kendal,  a  blind  philosopher,  to 
whom  he  read,  and  whom  he  assisted  in  his  scientific 
investigations.  It  was  here  that  he  acquired  a  con- 
siderable part  of  his  education,  particularly  his  taste 
for  mathematics.  From  Kendal,  Dalton  went  to 
Manchester,  and  commenced  teaching  elementary 
mathematics  to  young  men.  In  this  way,  together 
with  a  few  courses  of  chemical  lectures  which  he 
occasionally  delivered,  he  contrived  to  support  him- 
self during  a  long  and  useful  life.  His  slender  in- 
come was  always  equal  to  his  wants,  and  in  his  con- 
tempt for  riches  he  resembled  the  sages  of  antiquity. 

His  kind  heart  and  powerful  mind  gained  him 
many  friends  and  admirers,  and  in  course  of  time 

A  LITTLE   BIT.  71 

he  came  to  be  regarded  as  a  great  philosopher, 
though  he  still  continued  to  earn  his  bread  as  a  tutor. 
Such  was  the  founder  of  the  beautiful  atomic  theory 
of  Chemistry,  which  is  so  well  adapted  to  render 
certain  natural  laws  intelligible  to  our  understanding. 

In  examining  the  so-called  four  elements,  we 
alluded  to  the  fact  that  bodies  united  to  form  com- 
pounds in  definite  proportions.  Let  us  explain  this 
matter  more  fully.  Water  invariably  contains 
oxygen  and  hydrogen,  in  the  proportion  of  eight 
parts  by  weight  of  the  former  element  to  one  part 
of  the  latter,  whether  these  parts  represent  tons, 
pounds,  grains,  or  any  other  quantities.  The  whole 
of  the  oxygen  contained  in  the  ocean  is  exactly 
eight  times  heavier  than  the  hydrogen  with  which 
it  is  combined,  and  the  weights  of  the  two  gases 
bear  the  same  relation  to  each  other  in  the  dew-drop. 
If  we  take  any  other  chemical  compound,  we  shall 
find  that  the  proportions  by  weight  of  its  consti- 
tuents are  invariable  ;  thus  there  is  a  broad  distinc- 
tion between  such  a  compound  and  a  mere  mixture 
in  which  the  ingredients  are  present  in  indefinite 

Water  is  not  the  only  compound  that  can  be 
formed  of  oxygen  and  hydrogen.  We  can  compel 
one  part  of  hydrogen  to  combine  with  sixteen  parts 
of  oxygen,  and  the  result  of  their  union  is  a  colour- 
less liquid,  less  volatile  than  water,  and  having  a 
metallic  taste.  This  liquid,  called  peroxide  of  hydro- 
gen, and  water,  are  the  only  compounds  that  can  be 

72  A   LITTLE   BIT. 

formed  of  the  two  gases.  This  fact  is  well  worthy 
of  consideration.  Hydrogen  will  combine  with 
eight  or  with  sixteen  parts  of  oxygen,  but  in  no 
other  proportions.  Let  us  now  glance  at  some 
other  compounds.  The  poisonous  gas  known  as 
carbonic  oxide,  contains  six  parts  of  carbon  and 
eight  of  oxygen  ;  but  six  parts  of  carbon  also  com- 
bine with  sixteen  of  oxygen  to  form  carbonic  acid. 
Again,  in  ordinary  coal-gas  we  find  one  part  by 
weight  of  hydrogen  xinited  to  six  of  carbon. 

How  can  we  account  for  these  recurrent  numbers  ? 
What  relation  subsists  between  the  number  8  or 
its  multiple  16,  and  oxygen  ;  between  1  and  hydro- 
gen ;  between  6  and  carbon  ?  Why  should  these 
three  bodies  combine  in  fixed  numerical  propor- 
tions 1 

According  to  the  beautiful  atomic  theory  ot 
Dalton,  these  numbers  express  the  relative  weights 
of  the  ultimate  particles  of  matter.  Let  us  consider 
the  composition  of  water  in  this  light.  The  smallest 
possible  particle  of  water  is  composed  of  one  atom 
of  hydrogen  gas  and  one  atom  of  oxygen,  the  latter 
being  eight  times  heavier  than  the  former.  »Now, 
it  is  evident  that  whatever  may  be  the  number  of 
particles  in  a  given  volume  of  water,  the  relative 
weights  of  the  two  gases  will  remain  constant. 
The  smallest  particle  of  the  peroxide  of  hydrogen 
contains  one  atom  of  hydrogen  and  two  atoms  of 
oxygen  ;  accordingly,  there  can  be  no  compound  of 
hydrogen  and  oxygen  between  water  and  the 

A   LITTLE   BIT.  73 

peroxide,  unless  we  admit  the  existence  of  half- 
atoms.  We  have  only  spoken  of  three  of  the  ele- 
mentary bodies,  as  we  wished  our  remarks  to  be  as 
simple  as  possible  ;  each  of  the  sixty-three  elements 
has,  however,  a  definite  combining  proportion  or 
atomic  weight. 

How  admirably  this  atomic  theory  explains  the 
laws  of  chemical  combination  ;  how  intelligible  it 
renders  those  fixed,  invariable  weights  in  which 
the  elements  unite  to  form  compounds.  All  is 
shown  to  depend  on  the  properties  with  which  those 
inconceivably  small  particles  of  matter  are  in- 

We  have  told  the  reader  all  we  know  about 
atoms  (at  least  all  we  think  we  know,  for  we  can 
never  be  certain  that  atoms  exist).  They  are  im- 
measurably mimite  ;  they  are  separated  from  each 
other  by  wide  intervals,  and  they  have  a  definite 

A  German  chemist  has  endeavoured  to  render 
the  atomic  theory  intelligible  by  a  very  inge- 
nious illustration.  He  compares  atoms  to  the 
heavenly  bodies,  which,  in  comparison  with  the 
extent  of  the  space  in  which  they  are  suspended, 
are  infinitely  small :  that  is,  are  atoms.  In- 
numerable suns,  with  their  planets  and  attendant 
satellites,  move  in  infinite  space,  at  definite  and 
measured  distances  from  each  other.  They  are 
individually  indivisible,  inasmuch  as  there  exists 
no  force  capable  of  separating  them  into  parts, 

74  A   LITTLE   BIT. 

tearing  off  from  them  anything  material,  or  altering 
their  size  or  form  in  such  a  degree  as  to  be  per- 
ceptible, or  to  impair  or  disturb  their  relations  to 
the  other  heavenly  bodies.  In  this  sense  the 
whole  universe  coalesces  into  one  immense  body, 
the  atoms  of  which — that  is,  suns,  planets,  and 
satellites — are  indivisible  and  unchangeable  ! 

There  are  many  things  in  nature  which  the  human 
mind  will  never  be  able  to  comprehend ;  and  fore- 
most among  them  we  must  place  our  Little  Bit. 


"But  when  you  see  th'  effects  of  the  Great  Medicine, 
Of  which  one  part  projected  on  a  hundred 
Of  Mercury,  or  Venus,  or  the  Moon, 
Shall  turn  it  to  as  many  of  the  Sun, 
Nay,  to  a  thousand,  so  ad  infinitum, 
You  will  believe  me." — BEN  JONSON. 

WHO  has  not  heard  of  the  Philosopher's  Stone, 
that  much-coveted  but  unattainable  red  powder  of 
the  alchemists,  which  was  supposed  to  possess  the 
powers  of  transmuting  baser  metals  into  gold,  of 
healing  disease,  and  of  restoring  youth  1  Who  has 
not  read  of  those  misguided  men  of  former  ages, 
whose  lives  were  passed  in  attempting  to  discover 
this  precious  substance,  which  was  to  confer  upon 
them  inexhaustible  wealth,  health,  and  longevity, 
but  whose  labours  too  often  resulted  in  poverty, 
sickness,  and  death? 

In  the  present  day  we  are  too  apt  to  regard  the 
doctrine  of  transmutation,  which  formed  the  basis 
of  alchemy,  as  a  mere  hallucination  of  the  human 
mind  ;  and  to  look  upon  the  men  who  entertained 
it  with  mixed  feelings  of  pity  and  contempt.  Now 


if  we  only  take  the  trouble  to  dip  into  the  subject 
of  Alchemy,  we  shall  find  that  the  idea  of  the 
transmutation  of  baser  metals  into  gold  stood  in 
the  most  perfect  harmony  with  all  the  observations 
and  all  the  knowledge  of  the  age  in  which  it  was 
conceived,  and  that  the  alchemists,  instead  of  being 
crack-brained  enthusiasts,  were  the  most  learned 
and  acute  men  of  their  time. 

In  the  sixteenth  and  seventeenth  centuries  there 
were  many  impostors  who  pretended  a  knowledge 
of  gold-making ;  but  it  is  unjust  to  confound  them 
with  the  true  alchemists,  who  were  equivalent  to 
the  chemists  of  the  present  day.  We  cannot  really 
draw  a  line  of  demarcation  between  alchemy  and 
chemistry,  as  the  one  science  passed  by  an  imper- 
ceptible transition  into  the  other.  Alchemy  is 
ancient  chemistry,  and  chemistry  modern  alchemy. 
Many  of  the  opinions  entertained  by  the  chemists 
of  to-day  are  quite  as  extravagant  as  those  held  by 
the  alchemists.  Indeed,  as  our  knowledge  increases, 
the  transmutation  of  metals  seems  to  grow  more 
and  more  probable. 

Before  we  consider  the  magical  transformations 
that  are  effected  by  the  modern  alchemist,  let  us 
examine  some  of  the  doctrines  propounded  by  his 
ancient  representative. 

The  alchemist  maintained  that  all  the  metals  are 
compounds ;  that  the  baser  metals  contain  the 
same  constituents  as  gold,  contaminated  with 
various  impurities.  To  transmute  any  metals  into 


gold,  these  impurities  must  be  removed  or  reme- 
died, a  result  only  to  be  attained  through  the 
agency  of  the  great  medicine,  or  philosopher's 

This  view  of  the  nature  of  metallic  bodies  was 
perfectly  consistent  with  known  facts.  It  was 
known  that  the  colour  or  hardness  of  a  metal  could 
be  modified  by  the  addition  of  a  foreign  substance, 
and  it  was  only  natural  to  suppose  that  the  dif- 
ferent qualities  of  the  metals  depended  on  certain 

Gold  was  the  only  pure  or  healthy  metal.  Brass 
was  diseased  gold  ;  mercury  was  diseased  silver; 
but  these  metals,  and  all  the  others,  might  be 
healed,  or  transmuted  into  gold,  by  the  wonderful 
red  powder.  In  the  mystical  language  of  the  al- 
chemists gold  was  called  Sol,  or  the  sun  j  silver, 
being  the  next  metal  in  purity,  was  Luna,  or  the 
moon  ;  and  the  other  five  metals  then  known  re- 
ceived the  names  of  the  planets. 

The  idea  that  the  philosopher's  stone  possessed 
the  powers  of  curing  diseases,  and  of  prolonging 
life,  was  evidently  suggested  by  its  supposed  effect 
on  ignoble  metals.  Since  it  could  heal  the  metallic 
lepers,  and  convert  them  into  gold,  why  should  it 
not  ennoble  the  human  body  ? 

The  existence  of  the  philosopher's  stone  was 
never  questioned,  though  few  of  the  alchemists  who 
have  left  writings  behind  them  boast  of  having 
had  it  in  their  possession.  In  all  the  wonderful 


stories  that  are  told  of  the  conversion  of  the  baser 
metals  into  gold,  some  mysterious  unknown  is  made 
the  fortunate  possessor  of  the  magical  substance. 
The  narrative  of  Helvetius,  the  distinguished  phy- 
sician to  the  Prince  of  Orange,  is  a  good  example 
of  these  stories  : — 

At  the  close  of  the  year  1666  a  stranger  called 
upon  Helvetius,  and  showed  him  five  large  plates 
of  gold,  which  he  said  he  had  made  by  means  of 
the  philosopher's  stone.  The  physician,  who  had 
hitherto  been  a  bitter  opponent  of  alchemy,  was  not 
prepared  to  receive  this  extraordinary  statement 
without  some  convincing  proof  of  its  truth  ;  he 
therefoi'e  besought  the  stranger  to  give  him  a  small 
portion  of  the  stone,  or  at  least  to  make  a  trial  of 
its  powers  in  his  presence.  The  stranger  refused  to 
accede  to  either  of  these  requests,  and  took  his 
leave,  promising,  however,  to  return  in  six  weeks. 
He  kept  his  promise,  and  presented  Helvetius  with 
a  piece  of  the  stone  about  the  size  of  a  mustard- 
seed.  Next  day  the  physician,  in  the  presence  of 
his  wife  and  son,  put  six  drachms  of  lead  into  a 
crucible,  and  as  soon  as  it  was  melted,  threw  into 
it  the  fragment  which  he  had  obtained  from  the 
adept.  The  crucible  was  now  covered  wifch  its  lid, 
and  left  in  the  fire  for  a  quarter  of  an  hour,  at  the 
end  of  which  time  the  whole  of  the  lead  was  con- 
verted into  gold.  The  melted  metal  was  at  first  of 
a  deep  green  colour,  then  it  became  blood-red,  but 
when  cold  it  assumed  the  true  tint  of  gold.  This 


ingot  stood  all  the  tests  that  were  applied  to  it  by 
Porelius,  the  Warden  of  the  Dutch  Mint,  and  was 
found  to  be  pure  gold  !  We  need  scarcely  add  that 
the  sceptical  Helvetius  became  a  firm  believer  in 
the  transmutation  of  metals. 

We  dare  not  accept  this  strange  story  as  a  true 
one,  though  we  cannot  comprehend  the  motives 
that  could  have  induced  Helvetius  to  promulgate 
that  which  he  knew  to  be  false.  In  the  present 
state  of  our  knowledge,  we  regard  lead  and  gold  as 
distinct  bodies,  and  not  modifications  of  the  same 

If  the  alchemists  failed  to  discover  the  philoso- 
pher's stone,  we  must  not  conclude  that  their 
labours  were  fruitless.  In  seeking  that  which  had 
no  real  existence,  they  found  some  inestimable  trea- 
sures ;  for  most  of  those  acids,  alkalies,  and  salts 
that  are  indispensable  to  the  modern  experimental- 
ist were  discovered  hundreds  of  years  ago  by  the 

"  The  philosopher's  stone,"  says  Baron  Liebig, 
"  for  which  the  ancients  sought  with  a  dim  and  ill- 
defined  impulse,  was  in  its  perfection  nothing  else 
than  the  science  of  chemistry.  Is  that  not  the  phi- 
losopher's stone  which  promises  to  increase  the 
fertility  of  our  fields,  and  to  ensure  the  prosperity 
of  additional  millions  of  mankind  ?  Does  not  che- 
mistry promise  that  instead  of  seven  grains  we  shall 
be  enabled  to  raise  eight,  or  more,  on  the  same 
soil  1  Is  that  science  not  the  philosopher's  stone 


which  changes  the  ingredients  of  the  crust  of  the 
earth  into  useful  products,  to  be  further  transformed 
by  commerce  into  gold  1  Is  that  knowledge  not 
the  philosopher's  stone  which  promises  to  disclose 
the  laws  of  life,  and  which  must  finally  yield  to  us 
the  means  of  curing  diseases  and  of  prolonging  life  ?" 
With  these  remarks  we  will  take  our  leave  of  the 
ancient  alchemists,  and  proceed  to  consider  the 
labours  of  the  alchemists  of  the  present  day. 

Let  us  step  into  a  laboratory  and  surprise  one  of 
these  men  of  science  at  his  work.  What  a  different 
place  from  the  smoky  workshop  of  the  alchemist  of 
former  days  !  The  massive  furnaces  have  given 
way  to  cunning  contrivances  for  gas,  and  all  the 
clumsy  alembics,  aludels,  and  earthen  vessels  which 
were  once  in  vogue,  have  been  displaced  to  make 
room  for  tiny  bottles,  retorts,  glass  tubes,  and 

The  alchemist  himself  has  shaved  off  his  long 
beard,  and  has  discarded  his  ample  gown  ;  he  now 
wears  a  most  unpicturesque  black  coat,  and  looks 
for  all  the  world  like  an  ordinary  person. 

What  is  he  doing  1  Is  he  trying  to  transmute  lead 
into  gold  ?  No,  he  is  not  satisfied  that  the  metals 
are  transmutable,  and  he  cannot  afford  to  waste  his 
life  in  researches  which  may  never  lead  to  satisfac- 
tory results.  He  is  doing  something  which  seems 
quite  as  extraordinary  as  gold  making — he  is  ex- 
tracting a  beautiful  metal  from  clay  ! 

This  metal,  which  is  called  aluminium,  was  first 


procured  in  a  separate  state  some  thirty  years  ago, 
but  in  so  small  a  quantity  that  its  peculiar  qualities 
could  not  be  denned.  We  are  indebted  to  a  cele- 
brated French  adept*  for  the  process  by  which  the 
metal  can  be  obtained  in  considerable  masses. 

Here  is  a  bar  of  aluminium.  It  resembles 
silver  in  its  beautiful  lustre,  but  can  be  easily  dis- 
tinguished from  that  metal  by  its  bluish  colour. 
If  we  handle  the  bar  we  shall  marvel  greatly  at  its 
lightness,  as  aluminium  is  only  two  and  a-half  times 
heavier  than  water,  or  less  than  one-third  the  weight 
of  iron.  The  alchemist  will  tell  us  that  it  is 
endowed  with  many  striking  properties.  It  can  be 
fused  almost  as  easily  as  zinc,  and  cast  into  any 
form.  It  is  malleable  and  ductile  to  a  great  extent, 
and  can  be  beaten  into  the  thinnest  plates,  or  drawn 
out  into  the  finest  wires.  It  is  a  better  conductor  of 
electricity  than  any  metal  at  present  known.  It  does 
not  tarnish  on  exposure  to  the  air,  and  is  not  affected 
by  the  sulphurous  vapours  that  prove  so  destructive 
to  the  lustre  of  silver.  It  is  admirably  adapted  for 
the  manufacture  of  bells,  as  it  has  all  the  sonorous 
qualities  of  the  most  expensive  bronzes.  Its  marvel- 
lous lightness  and  strength  render  it  an  invaluable 
material  for  defensive  armour.  It  is  free  from 
deleterious  qualities,  and  therefore  suited  for  domes- 
tic utensils.  It  may  be  fashioned  into  ornaments 
that  will  never  lose  their  splendour,  and  into  deli- 

*  M.  St.  Claire  Deville. 


cate  scale-beams  and  watch-wheels  that  will  never 
be  affected  by  rust.  In  fine,  aluminium  seems  to 
possess  properties  which  render  it  useful  in  a  thou- 
sand ways,  and  if  the  process  by  which  it  is  ob- 
tained can  be  further  simplified,  it  will  prove  an 
inestimable  boon  to  mankind.  The  source  of  alumi- 
nium is  inexhaustible,  since  it  is  the  base  of  every 
kind  of  clay.  About  one-third  of  the  weight  of 
every  brick,  every  stone-jar,  and  every  tea-cup  con- 
sists of  this  curious  metal. 

Who  will  say  that  alchemy  is  extinct  1  What 
science  but  alchemy  would  enable  us  to  extract  a 
metal  having  an  intrinsic  value  equal  to  that  of 
gold,  from  a  lump  of  worthless  clay? 

The  artificial  formation  of  lapis  lazuli  is  another 
brilliant  achievement  of  modern  alchemy.  This 
mineral  has  always  been  esteemed  for  its  beautiful 
azure-blue  colour,  and  for  furnishing  us  with  the 
valuable  pigment,  ultramarine. 

Before  the  chemist  could  produce  ultramarine 
artificially,  he  required  to  know  the  composition  of 
the  natural  mineral ;  before  he  could  form  a  por- 
tion of  lapis  lazuli,  it  was  necessary  that  he  should 
pull  another  portion  to  pieces  for  a  pattern.  This 
preliminary  operation  was  soon  performed,  and 
lapis  lazuli  was  found  to  be  composed  of  silica,  alu- 
mina, and  soda,  three  colourless  bodies,  with  sul- 
phur and  a  trace  of  iron,  neither  of  which  is  blue. 
The  chemist  was  not  a  whit  disheartened  at  the 
absence  of  any  colouring  ingredient,  as  he  knew 


that  it  was  impossible  to  account  for  the  colour  of 
most  chemical  compounds.  He  now  combined  the 
five  ingredients  of  the  mineral  in  their  proper  pro- 
portions, and  saw,  to  his  great  delight,  that  the  com- 
pound assumed  the  matchless  hue  of  ultramarine. 
The  artificial  ultramarine  is  even  more  beautiful 
than  the  natural,  while  for  the  price  of  a  single 
ounce  of  the  latter  we  may  obtain  many  pounds  of 
the  former. 

Surely  our  modern  alchemists  have  discovered 
the  true  philosopher's  stone,  for  with  the  compara- 
tively valueless  substances,  flint,  clay,  soda,  sulphur, 
and  iron,  they  form  a  mineral  which  was  formerly 
nmch  dearer  than  gold  ! 

We  cannot  tell  what  wonders  may  yet  be  per- 
formed by  the  modern  alchemists ;  one  of  their 
number  has  said,  that  to-morrow  or  next  day  some 
one  may  discover  a  method  of  producing,  from  a 
piece  of  charcoal,  a  splendid  diamond ;  from  a  bit 
of  alum,  sapphires  or  rubies,  or  from  coal-tar  the 
beautiful  colouring  principle  of  madder,  or  the 
valuable  remedies  known  as  quinine  and  morphine ; 
all  these  things  being  either  as  precious  or  more 
useful  than  gold. 

The  extraction  of  aluminium  from  clay,  and  the 
manufacture  of  ultramarine,  are  examples  of  che- 
mical analysis  and  synthesis,  but  not  of  transmuta- 
tion. Let  us  now  examine  the  opinions  entertained 
by  the  alchemists  of  to-day  on  the  subject  of  the 
transmutation  of  elementary  bodies. 


The  ancients  believed  the  metals  to  be  compounds, 
and  this  view  may  be  correct.  They  are  now  con- 
sidered to  be  simple  substances,  not  because  they 
are  known  to  be  un  decomposable,  but  because  they 
have  never  yet  been  decomposed.  Fifty  years  ago 
upwards  of  a  dozen  bodies  were  regarded  as  elements 
which  are  now  known  to  be  compounds  of  metals 
with  oxygen. 

Who  can  tell  what  another  period  of  fifty  years 
may  do  for  alchemy  ?  It  is  quite  possible  that  at 
the  end  of  that  time  the  sixty -three  so-called  simple 
bodies  may  be  found  to  be  mere  modifications  of 
three  or  four  elements,  or  perhaps  of  one  primordial 

These  considerations  lead  us  to  reflect  on  the 
curious  transformations  which  occur  in  the  proper- 
ties of  certain  elementary  bodies,  and  which  must 
be  regarded  as  instances  of  transmutation.  Now, 
a  difference  in  the  properties  of  two  compounds 
having  the  same  composition,  may  arise  from  a  dif- 
ference in  the  arrangement  of  their  ultimate  par- 
ticles ;  but  how  is  it  with  the  different  forms  as- 
sumed by  a  simple  body  1  A  mass  of  phosphorus 
is  supposed  to  be  an  aggregate  of  similar  atoms,  yet 
this  and  many  other  substances  of  a  simple  nature, 
are  liable  to  strange  variations  of  condition  which 
we  are  as  yet  unable  to  explain. 

The  element  carbon  exists  in  many  different 
states.  This  irregular  lump  of  charcoal,  this  light 
powder  called  lamp-black,  and  this  hard  semi- 


crj^stalliue  mass  of  coke,  are  mere  modifications  of 
one  substance. 

Again,  this  piece  of  graphite  is  chemically  the 
same  substance,  as  it  is  simply  an  aggregate  of 
carbon  atoms ;  but  it  has  none  of  the  properties  of 
charcoal.  It  has  a  metallic  leaden-grey  lustre, 
whence  its  familiar  name  of  black-lead.  It  burns 
with  great  difficulty  ;  it  is  greasy  to  the  touch, 
and  it  leaves  dark  traces  when  rubbed  upon  paper. 

But  the  most  remarkable  form  assumed  by  carbon 
is  that  of  the  diamond.  This  precious  gem  occurs 
in  nature  in  regular  crystals,  usually  colourless, 
but  sometimes  yellow  and  brown.  Now,  we  are 
convinced  that  this  brilliant  and  transparent  body 
is  made  up  of  the  very  same  atoms  as  those  which 
go  to  form  the  dull  black  mass  of  charcoal !  The 
alchemist  has  not  yet  succeeded  in  making  dia- 
monds, but  he  has  already  transmuted  diamonds 
into  coke.  Who  knows  but  what  he  may  reverse 
this  transmutation  before  long  ! 

When  we  find  a  single  element  assuming  these 
Protean  shapes,  we  must  admit  that  the  notions  of 
the  old  alchemists  were  far  from  being  extravagant. 
To  a  person  ignorant  of  chemistry  it  would  appear 
much  more  probable  that  the  metals  are  modifica- 
tions of  one  substance,  than  that  the  diamond  is 
merely  crystallized  charcoal. 

Sulphur  may  be  obtained  in  various  forms.  The 
roll-sulphur  or  brimstone,  and  the  fine  powder  called 
flowers  of  sulphur,  are  probably  the  only  forms 


known  to  the  reader.  The  alchemist,  however, 
procures  sulphur  in  beautiful  semi-transpai-ent  crys- 
tals; in  needle-like  prisms  of  a  brownish-yellow 
colour ;  and  in  a  soft  and  sticky  mass,  which  may 
be  drawn  out  into  elastic  threads,  and  which 
greatly  resembles  shoemaker's  wax. 

Phosphorus  is  equally  changeable,  and  may  be 
obtained  in  no  less  than  five  different  forms.  Let 
us  compare  ordinary  phosphorus  with  its  most 
striking  modification,  which  has  been  designated 
amorphous  phosphorus.  Ordinary  phosphorus  is  a 
colourless  waxy-looking  solid ;  the  amorphous 
phosphorus  is  opaque,  and  of  a  brownish-red  colour. 
The  former  is  easily  fusible,  very  inflammable,  and 
luminous  in  the  dark ;  the  latter  may  be  heated  in 
the  open  air  without  change,  until  the  temperature 
reaches  500°,  when  it  is  converted  into  ordinary 
phosphorus.  Great  caution  is  required  in  handling 
the  ordinary  phosphorus,  as  the  heat  of  the  hand  is 
sometimes  sufficient  to  inflame  it ;  but  the  philoso- 
pher who  discovered  the  amorphous  phosphorus*  is 
in  the  habit  of  carrying  this  variety  loose  in  his 
pocket.  Common  phosphorus  dissolves  in  bisul- 
phide of  carbon ;  the  altered  phosphorus  is  in- 
soluble in  that  liquid.  The  former  is  very  poi- 
sonous ;  the  latter,  in  the  same  dose,  has  no  effect 
on  the  animal  system. 

These  marvellous  differences  are  inexplicable. 
We  are  able  to  change  the  ordinary  phosphorus 
*  M.  Schrotter. 


into  the  amorphous  variety  by  means  of  heat,  with- 
out adding  to  it  any  new  substance,  therefore  we 
are  quite  sure  that  the  soft  translucent  solid  that 
takes  fire  so  easily  is  chemically  the  same  substance 
as  that  uninflammable  solid  which  looks  like  a  piece 
of  common  red  sealing-wax.  Were  we  unable  to 
effect  this  strange  transmutation,  we  should  doubt- 
less regard  these  two  modifications  of  phosphorus 
as  distinct  elements. 

The  invisible  gas,  oxygen,  can  be  made  to  assume 
a  very  strange  condition,  by  transmitting  through  it 
a  succession  of  electric  sparks.  This  altered  oxygen, 
which  has  received  the  name  of  ozone,  exhibits  some 
very  striking  pi-operties.  It  has  a  powerful  odour, 
whereas  ordinary  oxygen  is  destitute  of  the  slightest 
smell.  It  possesses  considerable  bleaching  powers, 
corrodes  organic  matters,  and  acts  as  a  powerful 
oxidizing  agent.  It  seems  to  be  much  more  active 
than  ordinary  oxygen,  and  might  easily  be  taken 
for  a  distinct  element  by  those  ignorant  of  the  fact 
that  its  active  character  can  be  destroyed  by  heat. 

These  instances  of  actiial  transmutation  will 
suffice  to  convince  the  reader  that  alchemy  still 
exists.  He  will  see  that  our  modern  alchemists 
are  true  descendants  of  the  ancient  gold-seekers, 
though  they  no  longer  believe  in  the  philosopher's 
stone.  He  will  be  less  disposed  to  ridicule  the 
idea  of  the  transmutation  of  metals,  and  will  be 
able  to  form  some  conception  of  the  wonderful 
products  of  modern  alchemy. 

ujit  of 

"  The  glorious  sun 
Stays  in  his  course,  and  plays  the  alchemist." 

King  John. 

WHEREVER  the  Sunbeam  falls  we  find  life  and 
motion ;  elsewhere,  death  and  stillness.  Under  its 
influence  the  seed  germinates,  the  stem  sends  forth 
branches,  the  leaf  bursts  from  the  bud,  the  flower 
unfolds  its  petals,  and  the  fruit  grows  and  ripens. 

This  subtle  agent  plays  an  important  part  in 
many  of  the  fairy  tales  of  science.  The  philosopher 
has  conducted  it  into  his  dark  laboratory,  and  by 
twisting  and  torturing  it  with  cunningly-devised 
instruments,  has  forced  it  to  reveal  so  many  won- 
derful truths,  that  the  mind,  in  attempting  to 
grasp  them,  is  fairly  bewildered.  The  Magic  of  the 
Sunbeam  is  indeed  an  inexhaustible  theme,  and  we 
can  only  touch  upon  a  few  of  its  mysteries. 

Every  sunbeam  consists  of  light,  heat,  and 
chemical  power,  or  actinism.  At  present  we  will 
consider  the  sunbeam  as  a  ray  of  light,  without 
regarding  its  other  principles. 

What  is  light  ?     This  is  one  of  those  unanswer- 

90  THE   MAGIC    OF   THE    SUNBEAM. 

able  questions  that  meet  us  on  the  threshold  of 
every  science.  Some  philosophers  entertain  the 
opinion  that  light  consists  of  tiny  particles  of 
matter  thrown  off  from  a  luminous  body  with  pro- 
digious velocity  in  all  directions.  Others  suppose 
it  to  be  an  undulation  or  vibration  produced  in  a 
medium  called  ether,  which  is  believed  to  pervade 
all  space.  The  former  view  of  the  subject  is 
termed  the  theory  of  emission  ;  the  latter,  the  un- 
dulatory  theory.  We  cannot  say  which  of  these 
hypotheses,  or  guesses,  approaches  nearest  to  the 
truth,  but  the  undulatory  theory  has  by  far  the 
greater  number  of  supporters. 

Whether  a  ray  of  light  be  a  stream  of  incon- 
ceivably minute  particles  of  matter,  or  a  succession 
of  waves  in  an  ethereal  medium,  we  are  quite 
certain  that  it  travels  at  the  rate  of  nearly  two 
hundred  thousand  miles  in  a  single  second.  But 
such  is  the  disproportion  between  the  distances  of 
the  celestial  bodies,  that  light  must  be  about  eight 
and  a  quarter  minutes  in  reaching  us  from  the  sun; 
about  five  hours  in  coming  from  the  planet  Nep- 
tune ;  years  from  the  nearest  fixed  star ;  and 
probably  centuries  from  the  nebulae  !  When  we 
look  up  at  the  heavens,  we  do  not  see  the  stars  as 
they  are  now,  but  as  they  were  many  years  ago,  for 
the  light  which  now  renders  them  visible  must 
have  left  them  long  before  we  were  born  ! 

Rays  of  light  are  emitted,  under  ordinary  cir- 
cumstances, in  direct  lines ;  they  will  not  pass 


through  a  bent  tube,  nor  turn  a  corner.  Bodies 
through  which  light  passes  freely  are  called  trans- 
parent, and  those  which  do  not  admit  it  to  pass, 
opaque.  When  light  falls  iipon  an  opaque  surface 
a  portion  is  absorbed  and  another  portion  reflected  ; 
when  the  reflected  portion  is  considerable  the  sur- 
face appears  white,  and  Hack  when  the  portion  is 

We  have  said  that  a  sunbeam  consists  of  three 
great  principles,  namely,  light,  heat,  and  actinism. 
These  may  be  but  modifications  of  one  force,  but  in 
the  present  state  of  our  knowledge  it  is  better  to 
regard  them  as  distinct  agents. 

Light  acts  upon  the  organs  of  vision,  and  enables 
us  to  distinguish  external  objects.  Heat  regulates 
the  solid,  liquid,  and  aeriform  states  of  matter, 
and  maintains  this  planet  in  the  condition  which 
is  essential  to  the  well-being  of  its  inhabitants. 
Actinism  brings  about  those  wonderful  chemical 
changes  which  are  constantly  occurring  in  nature. 
These  three  principles  unite  to  form  our  magic 
sunbeam,  just  as  three  chemical  elements  unite  to 
form  a  compound. 

How  can  we  decompose  a  sunbeam?  How  can 
•we  separate  those  principles  which  are  linked  to- 
gether in  such  a  mysterious  manner?  Easily 
enough,  for  by  the  instrumentality  of  a  triangular 
bar  of  transparent  glass,  called  a  prism,  the  beam 
can  be  instantly  resolved  into  its  components. 

If  a  sunbeam,  admitted  into  a  dark  chamber  by 

92        THE  MAGIC  OF  THE  SUNBEAM. 

a  small  hole  in  the  window-shutter,  be  allowed  to 
fall  on  a  prism,  its  subtle  constituents  are  mys- 
teriously disturbed,  and  precipitate  themselves  at 
different  distances  on  a  white  tablet,  or  screen, 
placed  to  receive  them.  What  marvellous  change 
is  this  !  A  moment  since  the  beam  formed  a 
bright  spot  on  the  screen,  but  now  in  place  of  the 
spot  we  see  a  lengthened  band  of  variegated  colours ! 
On  one  side  of  the  prism  a  pencil  of  brilliant  white 
sunlight  falls  upon  the  surface  of  the  glass ;  on  the 
other  the  pencil  spreads  out  and  paints  upon  the 
screen  a  ribbon  whose  beauteous  hues  infinitely  sur- 
pass the  colours  that  lie  on  the  artist's  palette  ! 
Examine  these  colours  attentively.  At  the  bottom 
of  the  band  we  find  red,  above  it  orange,  then  yellow, 
green,  blue,  indigo,  and  lastly  violet.  These  co- 
lours pass  by  insensible  gradations  into  each  other, 
so  that  it  is  impossible  to  say  where  one  colour  ends 
and  another  begins. 

We  have  thus  decomposed  the  visible  principle 
of  the  sunbeam  into  its  elementary  colours,  for  our 
readers  must  know  that  white  is  a  compound  of 
seven  hues.  The  natural  colours  of  bodies  depend 
entirely  upon  the  manner  in  which  they  decompose 
the  sunbeams.  A  rose  is  red  because  its  petals  have 
the  property  of  absorbing  all  the  elementary  colours 
of  light  except  red,  which  it  reflects.  The  pigments 
used  by  the  artist  are  not,  in  themselves,  colours ; 
they  are  merely  substances  that  absorb  certain  rays 
and  reflect  others.  Our  readers  will  now  understand 


how  it  is  that  a  body  which  reflects  most  of  the 
light  that  falls  upon  it  appears  perfectly  white. 

But  we  have  not  yet  done  with  the  variegated 
band,  or  prismatic  spectrum,  as  it  has  been  termed. 
If  a  highly  sensitive  finger  were  held  in  the  yellow 
rays  of  the  spectrum,  a  degree  of  warmth  would  be 
felt,  greater  than  if  it  were  held  in  the  violet  rays. 
But  if  it  were  removed  to  the  extreme  red  rays  a 
great  deal  more  heat  would  be  perceived  than  in 
either  of  the  former  cases.  Now,  we  have  imagined 
the  existence  of  a  finger  far  more  sensitive  to  slight 
variations  of  temperature  than  ordinary  fingers  are, 
but  these  results  have  been  obtained  by  means  of 
very  delicate  thermometers,  or  heat  measurers. 

Let  us  now  take  a  piece  of  paper,  prepared  for  the 
photographic  process,  and  place  it  upon  the  screen 
so  that  it  may  receive  the  rainbow-like  colours  upon 
its  sensitive  surface.  On  removing  it  it  will  be 
found  to  be  blackened  at  a  point  beyond  the  violet 
rays  of  the  spectrum.  The  principle  which  black- 
ens the  prepared  paper  is  actinism. 

From  these  experiments  we  learn  that  the  sun- 
beam is  an  ethereal  band  of  different  rays,  which 
maybe  separated  by  the  instrumentality  of  the  prism. 
We  learn  that  heat  is  less  refracted,  or  bent,  by  the 
glass  than  the  other  powers,  as  we  find  it  but 
slightly  thrown  out  of  the  right  line  which  the 
beam  would  have  taken  had  it  not  been  interrupted 
by  the  prism.  "VVe  discover  that  light  is  subject  to 
greater  refraction  as  the  seven  colours  are  thrown. 


upon  the  screen  above  the  maximum  point  of  the 
heat  rays.  Lastly,  we  find  that  actinism  is  more 
refrangible  than  either  heat  or  light,  as  we  know 
that  the  maximum  of  this  power  is  found  in  the 
upper  part  of  the  spectrum  at  a  point  where  light 
rapidly  diminishes,  and  where  scarcely  any  heat  can 
be  detected. 

The  analysis  of  the  sunbeam  by  means  of  the 
prism  must  excite  our  wonder.  Who  could  imagine 
that  a  simple  wedge-shaped  piece  of  glass  would  be 
able  to  separate  those  imponderable  agents  which 
reach  us  after  having  travelled  ninety-five  millions 
of  miles  together  ? 

We  can  isolate  either  of  these  solar  principles 
without  the  aid  of  a  prism.  The  crystal  called 
black  mica,  does  not  admit  light  to  pass  through  it, 
but  it  is  freely  penetrated  by  heat  j  and  on  the  other 
hand,  glass  stained  green  by  oxide  of  copper,  offers 
scarcely  any  impediment  to  the  passage  of  light, 
though  it  effectually  stops  the  rays  of  heat.  Again, 
a  yellow  transparent  glass  obstructs  the  chemical 
radiations,  while  a  dark  blue  medium,  which  arrests 
nearly  all  the  light,  allows  them  to  pass.  Thus  we 
see  that  the  physical  conditions  of  the  three  solar 
principles  are  essentially  different. 

Let  us  now  consider  the  magic  influences  of  this 
sunbeam  over  the  animal  and  vegetable  kingdoms. 
The  luminous  principle  first  demands  our  attention ; 
for  although  we  are  told  that  light  is  less  abundant 
than  either  heat  or  actinism,  we  cannot  help  re- 

THE  MAGIC  OF  THE  STWBEAM.        95 

garding  it  as  the  sunbeam's  chief  constituent. 
Light  is  of  the  highest  importance  to  the  health 
and  well-being  of  animals,  as  may  be  inferred  from 
the  fact  that  animal  life  ceases  in  situations  from 
which  light  is  totally  excluded.  The  case  of  the 
Proteus  anguinus  is  exceptional,  and  therefore  de- 
serves some  notice. 

This  extraordinary  little  creature  is  found  in 
some  of  the  gloomy  caverns  of  Illyria,  into  which 
the  magic  sunbeam  never  penetrates.  "  At  first 
view,"  says  Sir  Humphry  Davy,  "you  might  sup- 
pose this  animal  to  be  a  lizard,  but  it  has  the 
motions  of  a  fish.  Its  head,  and  the  lower  part  of 
its  body,  and  its  tail,  bear  a  strong  resemblance  to 
those  of  the  eel ;  but  it  has  no  fins,  and  its  curious 
bronchial  organs  are  not  like  the  gills  of  fishes. 
They  form  a  singular  vascular  structure,  almost  like 
a  crest,  round  the  throat,  which  may  be  removed 
without  occasioning  the  death  of  the  animal,  who  is 
likewise  furnished  with  lungs.  With  this  double 
apparatus  for  supplying  air  to  the  blood,  it  can  live 
either  below  or  above  the  surface  of  the  water.  Its 
fore  feet  resemble  hands,  but  they  have  only  three 
claws  or  fingers,  and  are  too  feeble  to  be  of  use  in 
grasping  or  supporting  the  weight  of  the  animal. 
The  hinder  feet  have  only  two  claws  or  toes,  which 
in  the  larger  specimens  are  found  so  imperfect  as  to 
be  almost  obliterated.  It  has  small  points  in  place 
of  eyes,  as  if  to  preserve  the  analogy  of  nature.  It 
is  of  a  fleshy  whiteness  and  transparency  in  its 


natural  state,  but  when  exposed  to  light,  its  skin 
gradually  becomes  darker,  and  at  last  assumes  an 
olive  tint.  Its  nasal  organs  appear  large  ;  and  it  is 
abundantly  furnished  with  teeth,  from  which  it 
may  be  concluded  that  it  is  an  animal  of  prey,  yet 
in  its  confined  state  it  has  never  been  known  to 
eat,  though  it  has  been  kept  alive  for  many  years 
by  occasionally  changing  the  water  in  which  it  was 
placed."  This  strange  creature,  whose  life  is  passed 
in  total  darkness,  has  long  been  a  puzzle  to  philoso- 
phers, as  all  the  facts  revealed  by  science  go  to 
prove  that  light  is  indispensable  to  organization. 

The  dependence  of  animal  life  upon  light  is  beau- 
tifully exhibited  in  the  ocean.  Water  is  not  abso- 
lutely translucent,  and  it  has  been  calculated  that 
light  must  lose  all  its  influence  at  the  depth  of  a 
very  few  hundred  feet  into  the  ocean,  even  under 
the  tropics.  Now,  it  has  been  satisfactorily  proved 
by  an  extensive  series  of  dredging  experiments  that 
life  diminishes  as  we  descend  into  the  ocean,  and 
that  beyond  the  depth  of  three  hundred  fathoms  it 
ceases  altogether.  But  this  is  not  all,  for  besides 
being  much  more  numerous,  the  shells  of  the  differ- 
ent mollusca  are  much  more  brightly  coloured  in 
the  upper  regions  of  the  ocean  than  in  the  lower, 
in  fact,  a  regular  gradation  of  tints  may  be  traced 
as  the  shells  grow  deeper  in  hue  as  they  approach 
the  light. 

Man  himself  is  highly  susceptible  to  the  influ- 
ence of  light,  and  pines  and  sickens  in  darkness. 


Those  persons  who  dwell  in  dark  streets  and  alleys 
are  far  more  subject  to  disease  than  those  who  reside 
in  open  places.  Again,  those  who  take  no  heed 
of  the  old  proverb  about  going  early  to  bed,  seldom 
find  themselves  healthy  ;  and  though  they  may  be 
wealthy,  they  cannot  be  deemed  wise  ! 

Light  is  absolutely  necessary  to  vegetable  life, 
for  under  its  influence  the  plant  separates  carbon 
from  the  air  and  secretes  it  within  its  tissues.  Every 
one  must  have  observed  how  plants  grow  towards 
the  light,  especially  when  confined  in  a  room ;  how 
blanched  and  sickly  they  become  in  dark  situations, 
and  how  speedily  they  recover  when  exposed  to  full 
sunlight.  When  a  potato  germinates  in  a  dark 
cellar  it  puts  forth  long  pallid  shoots  in  quest  of  a 
stray  sunbeam  ;  but  let  it  be  exposed  to  the  light 
for  a  few  days,  and  these  shoots  will  become  dark 
and  green. 

Flowers  are  more  sensitive  to  the  influence  of 
light  than  leaves ;  indeed  almost  every  flower  has  a 
particular  degree  of  light  requisite  for  its  full  ex- 
pansion. So  regular  are  the  periods  of  opening  and 
shutting  with  some  flowers,  that  they  enable  us  to 
tell  the  hour  of  the  day  with  tolerable  accuracy. 
The  great  naturalist,  Linnaeus,  made  a  list  of  no  less 
than  thirteen  flowers  that  open  and  shut  at  diffe- 
rent hours,  and  designated  them  by  the  fanciful 
title  of  "  Flora's  clock." 

Having  said  enough  to  prove  that  there  exists  a 
mysterious  bond  of  union  between  organization 


98        THE  MAGIC  OF  THE  SUNBEAM. 

and  light,  let  us  now  examine  some  of  the  effects 
of  heat. 

The  present  condition  of  our  earth  is  directly 
dependent  upon  the  amount  of  heat  we  receive 
from  the  sun.  If  it  were  possible  to  move  this 
planet  nearer  that  orb,  the  quantity  of  heat  would 
be  much  increased,  and  all  the  present  races  of 
plants  and  animals  must  perish  ;  the  same  result 
would  happen  were  the  two  bodies  to  be  separated 
by  a  greater  distance,  owing  to  a  deficiency  of  the 
genial  influence.  In  the  former  case  the  world 
would  be  much  too  hot  to  hold  us,  and  in  the 
latter  we  should  be  regularly  frozen  out ! 

The  rays  that  are  emitted  from  the  sun  are 
partly  absorbed  by  the  atmosphere,  which  acts  as  a 
screen,  and  shields  the  earth's  inhabitants  from  the 
full  and  perhaps  destructive  influence  of  the  sun's 
heat.  The  quantity  of  heat  received  by  us  in  one 
year  is  prodigious,  for  it  has  been  calculated  that  it 
would  suffice  to  melt  a  shell  of  ice  forty-six  feet 
thick,  and  covering  every  part  of  the  globe.  The 
heat-rays  striking  the  earth,  become  dispersed  in  a 
variety  of  ways.  Some  are  reflected,  others  are 
absorbed.  Some  of  the  rays  warm  the  earth,  and 
then  warm  the  overlying  air,  and  expanding  it,  rise 
with  it  to  the  upper  regions  of  the  atmosphere. 
But  by  far  the  greater  number  of  heat-rays  pene- 
trate the  earth,  and  descend  to  a  considerable  depth. 
In  winter  this  stored-up  heat  partly  returns  to  the 
surface,  and  ultimately  becomes  dissipated  into  the 
air,  and  from  the  air  into  infinite  space. 


Heat,  like  light,  is  absorbed  in  different  degrees 
by  different  substances.  The  colour  and  condition 
of  surface  seems  to  exert  a  great  influence  on  its 
absorption ;  thus  a  black  body  absorbs  more  heat 
than  a  white  one,  and  a  rough  surface  more  than 
a  smooth  one.  "  Every  tree,"  says  Mr.  Hunt, 
"  spreading  its  green  leaves  to  the  sunshine,  or  ex- 
posing its  brown  branches  to  the  air,  every  flower 
which  lends  its  beauty  to  the  joyous  earth,  possesses 
different  absorbing  and  radiating  powers.  The 
chalice-like  cup  of  the  pure  white  lily  floating  on 
the  lake,  the  variegated  tulip,  the  brilliant  anemone, 
the  delicate  rose,  and  the  intensely-coloured  peony 
or  dahlia,  have  each  powers  peculiar  to  themselves 
for  drinking  in  the  warming  life-stream  of  the  sun, 
and  for  radiating  it  back  again  to  the  thirsting 

It  is  impossible  to  emimerate  the  wonderful 
offices  performed  by  heat  in  the  economy  of  nature. 
By  the  influence  of  heat,  water  is  vaporized  and 
raised  into  the  air,  thence  to  be  precipitated  in  re- 
freshing showers.  The  atmospheric  currents  are 
caused  by  heat ;  the  trade-wind,  that  blows  from 
the  same  quarter  throughout  the  year,  the  periodi- 
cal monsoon,  the  gentle  breeze,  the  boisterous  gale, 
and  the  devastating  hurricane,  are  alike  manifesta- 
tions of  the  activity  of  this  mighty  principle. 

Let  us  now  glance  at  that  mysterious  element  of 
the  sunbeam  which  cannot  be  detected  by  the 
senses.  To  modern  science  is  entirely  due  the 


knowledge  we  have  gained  of  the  chemical  powers 
of  the  sunbeam.  The  old  alchemists,  indeed,  were 
acquainted  with  the  isolated  fact  that  a  white  sub- 
stance called  Jiorn  silver  was  blackened  by  exposure 
to  the  sun's  rays,  but  it  never  struck  them  to  inves- 
tigate the  cause  of  this  curious  phenomenon.  It 
was  reserved  for  a  philosopher  of  modern  times  to 
prove  that  no  substance  can  be  exposed  to  the  sun's 
rays  without  undergoing  a  chemical  change. 

The  blackeningof  horn  silver  is  but  a  single  instance 
of  a  vast  number  of  effects  produced  by  that  mys- 
terious agent  which  is  associated  with  light  and  heat 
in  the  sunbeam.  All  bodies  are  influenced  by  actin- 
ism, and  undergo  a  chemical  or  molecular  disturbance. 
The  rock  and  the  mountain,  as  well  as  the  animal 
and  the  plant,  are  destructively  acted  upon  during 
the  hours  of  sunshine,  and  would  soon  perish  under 
the  delicate  touch  of  the  actinic  1'ays,  were  it  not  for 
the  counteracting  influence  of  darkness.  At  night, 
the  chemical  disturbances  are  undone,  and  inorganic 
bodies  as  well  as  organized  beings  may  be  said  to 
sleep ! 

The  influence  of  actinism  upon  germination  is 
very  remarkable,  as  seeds  will  not  germinate  in  light 
from  which  this  principle  is  separated.  But,  after 
the  leaves  are  formed,  a  larger  amount  of  light  than 
of  actinism  is  necessary  to  enable  the  plant  to  sepa- 
rate carbon  from  the  atmosphere  and  form  wood. 
Again,  the  flowering  and  fruiting  of  a  plant  is  more 
closely  connected  with  the  heat  of  the  sunbeam  than 

THE  MAGIC  OF  THE  SUNBEAM.        101 

with  its  light  or  actinism.  Nature  has  amply  pro- 
vided for  the  varying  wants  of  plants  ;  in  the  spring 
we  may  detect  an  excess  of  actinism  in  the  solar 
rays;  in  the  summer  an  excess  of  light,  and  in  the 
autumn  an  excess  of  heat. 

We  have  said  that  all  bodies  undergo  a  chemical 
disturbance  when  exposed  to  the  solar  rays,  but  it 
must  not  be  supposed  that  this  disturbance  always 
manifests  itself  in  a  blackening,  as  in  the  case  of 
horn  silver.  If  a  polished  plate  of  metal,  of  glass, 
of  marble,  or  even  a  polished  surface  of  wood,  be  in 
part  exposed  to  the  influence  of  sunshine,  it  will, 
when  breathed  upon,  exhibit  the  fact  that  a  distur- 
bance of  some  kind  has  taken  place  upon  the  portions 
illuminated,  whereas  no  change  can  be  detected  upon 
the  parts  kept  in  the  dark.  But  if  we  expose  a 
chemically  prepared  tablet  to  the  sunbeams  in  a 
similar  manner,  we  may  by  a  certain  process  render 
the  effect  produced  on  its  surface  permanent,  and 
thus  as  it  were  fix  a  shadow. 

The  beautiful  art  of  photography,  or  light-draw- 
ing, is  based  upon  this  marvellous  fact.  Everybody 
is  familiar  with  the  grand  results  of  this  art.  Every- 
body has  seen  those  wondrous  pictures  which  neither 
pencil,  brush,  nor  hand  has  touched,  but  which  have 
been  delicately  traced  by  the  magic  sunbeam.  We 
have  ceased  to  look  upon  these  pictures  with  asto- 
nishment, just  as  we  have  ceased  to  wonder  at  the 
locomotive,  the  electric  telegraph,  and  the  steam- 
ship. But  in  times  gone  by,  had  any  one  asserted 

102       THE  MAGIC  OP  THE  SUNBEAM. 

that  he  could  compel  the  sunbeams  to  paint  a  por- 
trait, he  would  in  all  probability  have  been  burned 
as  a  wizard ;  indeed,  not  many  years  ago  a  gentle- 
man was  thought  to  be  disordered  in  his  intellect, 
because  he  deemed  it  possible  to  fix  the  fleeting  pic- 
tures seen  in  the  camera  obscura. 

We  cannot  enter  fui'ther  into  the  Magic  of  the 
Sunbeam  without  leading  our  readers  into  the  mystic 
regions  of  mathematics.  We  have  already  said  that 
the  subject  is  an  inexhaustible  one,  and  we  are  more 
convinced  of  this  than  ever  when  we  find  what  a 
comparatively  small  number  of  facts  relating  to  the 
wonderful  band  of  forces  called*  the  sunbeam,  we 
have  been  able  to  set  before  the  reader.  But  though 
so  much  is  known  about  the  sunbeam,  how  much 
still  remains  obscure !  It  is  only  lately  that  the 
existence  of  the  mighty  principle  of  actinism  has 
been  revealed ;  and  who  can  tell  what  forces  may 
still  be  hidden  in  the  beam — what  unknown  powers 
may  yet  be  brought  to  light  by  our  laborious  truth- 
seekers  1 

"  Mine  eyes  are  made  the  fools  o'  the  other  senses." 


THE  old  proverb  which,  heads  this  chapter  is  sug- 
gestive of  many  wonderful  truths  connected  with 
vision.  Science  has  demonstrated  that  two  eyes 
are  better  than  one,  for  many  reasons.  We  require 
two  eyes  to  estimate  distances,  and  to  obtain  a  true 
idea  of  the  roundness,  relief,  and  solidity  of  natural 
objects.  Those  ugly  one-eyed  fellows  who  helped 
Vulcan  to  forge  the  thunderbolts,  must  have  been 
clumsy  workmen,  in  spite  of  what  the  ancient  writers 
say  to  the  contrary. 

Before  we  consider  the  use  of  two  eyes,  let  us 
examine  the  structure  of  a  single  organ.  The  eye 
has  often  been  compared  with  the  camera  obscura, 
that  dark  box  in  which  an  image  is  formed  of  ex- 
ternal objects,  by  means  of  an  arrangement  of  glass 
lenses.  The  eye  is,  indeed,  a  dark  chamber  fur- 
nished with  lenses,  but  here  the  likeness  ceases,  as 
its  marvellous  arrangements  are  infinitely  more 
beautiful  than  those  of  any  optical  instrument  de- 
vised by  the  ingenuity  of  man. 

104  TWO   EYES   AKE   BETTER   THAN    ONE. 

The  human  eyeball  is  a  globular  mass,  somewhat 
flattened  in  front,  and  about  the  size  of  a  walnut. 
The  white  part  surrounding  the  centre  is  called  the 
sclerotic  coat,  deriving  its  name  from  a  Greek  word 
expressive  of  hardness.  This  white  coat  is  continued 
round  the  back  of  the  eyeball,  and  forms  a  sort  of 
strong  bag  for  containing  the  other  parts  of  the 
eye.  As  it  is  perfectly  opaque,  it  is  not  continued 
over  the  front  of  the  eye,  but  joins  the  beautiful 
transparent  membrane  called  the  cornea,  or  horny 
coat,  which  bulges  forward  a  little,  and  forms  that 
wonderful  bow- window  through  which  the  rays  of 
light  pass  to  the  brain.  Within  or  behind  the 
cornea  may  be  perceived  the  iris,  a  sort  of  coloured 
fringe  which  assumes  different  hues  in  different 
eyes,  being  dark  brown,  blue,  hazel,  or  grey,  and,  in 
exceptional  cases,  red.  When  we  speak  of  blue  eyes 
or  hazel  eyes,  we  refer  to  the  colour  of  this  remark- 
able fringe  or  curtain.  In  the  centre  of  the  eye, 
surrounded  by  the  iris,  is  a  dark  circular  space  of 
variable  dimensions,  called  the  pupil,  which  is  in 
fact  the  opening  through  which  light  passes  into 
the  dark  chamber  of  the  eye. 

The  internal  structure  of  this  wonderful  organ  is 
very  complicated.  The  hard  white  membrane  is 
lined  by  a  coat  called  the  clwroid,  which  is  covered 
on  the  inside  with  a  perfectly  black  pigment,  and 
this  again  with  a  delicate  network  of  nerves  called 
the  retina.  The  cavity  surrounded  by  these  coats 
is  filled  by  three  substances,  called  humours.  Be- 

TWO    EYES   ARE   BETTER   THAN    ONE.  105 

hind  the  cornea  or  bow-window  is  the  aqueous 
humour,  a  perfectly  limpid  liquid  resembling  water ; 
the  second  in  situation  is  the  crystalline  humour, 
which  is  a  little  capsule  of  transparent  membrane, 
holding  a  small  quantity  of  fluid ;  and  the  third, 
termed  the  vitreous  humour,  is  a  transparent  jelly 
which  fills  the  inner  chamber  of  the  eye,  and  con- 
tributes chiefly  to  preserve  the  globular  figure  of 
the  organ. 

Each  eye  is  placed  in  a  basin-shaped  cavity  in  the 
skull,  called  the  orbit,  and  there  are  various  muscles 
attached  to  different  parts  of  the  orbit,  which  by 
their  contraction  give  a  lateral  or  rolling  motion  to 
the  eyeball,  and  thus  assist  in  directing  the  sight 
towards  particular  objects.  Eyelids,  also  moved  by 
muscles,  and  fringed  by  the  eyelashes,  serve  to  guard 
the  eyes  from  dust,  and  to  screen  them  from  the 
access  of  too  intense  a  light. 

So  much  for  the  anatomy  of  the  eye  j  let  us  now 
consider  its  functions.  As  already  observed,  the 
eye  may  be  compared  to  a  camera  obscura,  for  the  rays 
of  light  from  any  object  entering  the  pupil  form  an 
image  on  the  retina,  just  as  the  picture  is  painted 
on  the  ground  glass  of  the  camera.  The  various 
humours  of  the  eye  form  a  wonderful  compound  lens, 
far  excelling  the  achromatic  lenses  of  the  opticians. 
The  seat  of  vision  is  generally  supposed  to  be  the 
retina,  though  some  philosophers  regard  the  choroid 
coat  as  the  sensitive  tablet  upon  which  the  impres- 
sion is  made.  We  may  trace  the  phenomena  of 


vision  up  to  this  point,  but  no  further.  We  know 
that  a  distinct  image  is  formed  upon  one  or  other  of 
the  delicate  coats  of  the  eye,  but  the  mariner  in 
which  the  sensation  is  conveyed  to  the  brain  is  an 
inscrutable  mystery.  "  It  is  the  boast  of  science," 
says  Herschel,  "  to  have  been  able  to  trace  so  far 
the  refined  contrivances  of  this  most  admirable 
organ,  not  its  shame  to  find  something  still  con- 
cealed from  scrutiny  ;  for,  however  anatomists  may 
differ  on  points  of  structure,  or  physiologists  dispute 
on  modes  of  action,  there  is  that  in  what  we  do 
understand  of  the  formation  of  the  eye  so  similar, 
and  yet  so  infinitely  superior  to  a  product  of  human 
ingenuity;  such  thought,  such  care,  such  refinement, 
such  advantage  taken  of  the  properties  of  natural 
agents,  used  as  mere  instruments  for  accomplishing 
a  given  end,  as  force  upon  us  a  conviction  of  delibe- 
rate choice  and  premeditated  design,  more  strongly, 
perhaps,  than  any  single  contrivance  to  be  found, 
whether  in  art  or  nature,  and  renders  its  study  an 
object  of  the  greatest  interest." 

The  Cyclops  had  each  a  single  eye  stuck  in  the 
centre  of  the  forehead,  but  we  are  provided  with  a 
pair  of  these  matchless  instruments.  Each  eye  re- 
ceives an  impression  of  an  object,  nevertheless  we 
do  not  see  the  object  double.  So  long  as  each  image 
falls  exactly  on  the  same  part  of  each  sensitive  sur- 
face, the  mind  will  perceive  but  one  object,  and  the 
muscles  which  move  the  eyes  act  in  such  perfect 
unison  that  this  result  is  constantly  attained. 


If  we  look  at  a  candle  placed  at  a  distance  of 
about  ten  feet,  we  see  it  distinctly  as  one  object, 
because  our  eyes  are  so  adjusted  that  the  image  of 
the  candle  is  projected  on  similar  parts  of  each 
retina.  But  if  we  now  hold  up  a  finger  about  ten 
inches  from  the  eyes,  and  look  steadily  at  it,  the 
candle  will  be  seen  on  both  sides  of  the  finger.  The 
eyes  are  now  adjusted  to  the  finger,  and  the  image 
of  the  candle  no  longer  falls  on  the  same  parts  of 
the  two  retinae.  Again,  if  the  eyes  be  directed  to 
the  light,  the  finger  will  be  seen  double,  because  the 
optic  axes  are  now  adjusted  to  perceive  objects  at  a 
distance  of  ten  feet.  Similar  effects  may  be  pro- 
duced by  pressing  one  eyeball  with  the  finger  so  as 
to  displace  its  optical  axis,  or  by  getting  intoxicated, 
an  experiment  which  we  trust  our  readers  will  never 

We  make  use  of  our  two  eyes  as  a  pair  of  com- 
passes to  measure  distances,  for  we  involuntarily 
associate  the  idea  of  smallness  with  the  convergence 
of  the  visual  axis,  and  that  of  vastness  with  its 
divergence.  We  feel  that  an  object  is  near  or  re- 
mote, small  or  large,  by  opening  and  shutting  our 
magic  compasses,  the  legs  of  which  are  imaginary 
lines  passing  through  the  eyeballs.  A  person 
suddenly  deprived  of  one  eye  estimates  the  dis- 
tance of  objects  with  the  greatest  difficulty  ;  but 
after  some  time,  experience  teaches  the  one  eye  to 
measure  distance  by  the  change  of  focus  alone. 
Let  the  reader  close  one  eye,  and  try  to  snuff  a 


candle,  he  will  then  see  the  import  of  the  old  pro- 
verb, "  Two  eyes  are  better  than  one." 

We  have  said  that  two  eyes  are  reqxiired  in  order 
to  form  a  true  conception  of  solidity  ;  this  point  we 
now  proceed  to  consider.  If  the  reader  will  look  at 
any  near  object,  a  book  placed  on  end,  for  instance, 
he  will  at  once  perceive  that  it  is  a  real  book  and 
not  a  picture  of  one  ;  he  will  see  that  it  has  a  cer- 
tain relief;  that  one  portion  of  it  is  nearer  to  him 
than  another  ;  in  a  word,  that  it  is  solid.  Now,  by 
closing  each  eye  in  turn,  the  reader  will  find  that 
one  eye  will  see  round  one  side  of  the  object,  and 
the  other  round  the  other  side,  two  different  impres- 
sions being  obtained.  Every  solid  object,  therefore, 
is  seen  differently  by  the  two  eyes,  and  it  has  been 
found  that  the  effect  of  solidity  is  produced  by  the 
combination  of  these  different  impressions  in  the 
mind.  Two  eyes  are  better  than  one,  not  merely 
because  they  give  symmetry  to  the  face,  but  because 
they  act  together  in  producing  on  the  inner  or 
mental  eye,  a  perfect  and  instantaneous  impression 
of  the  form  and  position  of  objects. 

This  important  truth  has  been  revealed  by  the 
beautiful  and  well-known  instrument  called  the 
stereoscope,  which,  however,  is  much  better  known 
than  understood.  Some  account  of  this  magic  in- 
strument certainly  merits  a  place  amongst  the  fairy 
tales  of  science. 

The  stereoscope,  in  its  most  popular  form,  is  sim- 
ply a  small  wooden  box,  furnished  with  two  lenses, 


like  an  opera-glass.  A  double  picture,  say  a  photo- 
graph of  a  statue,  is  placed  at  the  bottom  of  the 
box,  and  viewed  with  both  eyes,  by  means  of  the 
lenses.  The  effect  is  truly  marvellous,  for  the  de- 
sign immediately  appears  in  relief — the  picture 
becomes  a  piece  of  sculpture  !  This  illusion  is  so 
perfect,  and  the  means  by  which  it  is  produced  so 
simple,  that  we  cannot  wonder  at  the  popularity 
which  the  stereoscope  has  so  rapidly  attained. 

The  term  stereoscope  is  derived  from  two  words 
in  the  Greek  language,  the  first  signifying  a  solid 
body,  and  the  latter  vision;  it  may  therefore  be 
freely  translated  as  "that  which  shows  every  object 
in  relief."  Our  readers  will  admit  that  the  name  is 
a  good  one,  and  perfectly  descriptive  of  the  powers 
of  the  instrument. 

Let  us  now  consider  how  the  wonderful  illusions 
of  the  stereoscope  are  effected.  We  shall  not  require 
diagrams  to  make  our  meaning  clear,  since  every 
one  must  be  familiar  with  the  construction  of  the 
magic  instrument. 

The  two  pieces  of  glass  that  are  placed  in  the 
front  of  the  stereoscope  are  wedge-shaped,  that  is 
to  say,  their  outer  edges  are  a  little  thicker  than 
their  inner  edges.  These  glasses  act  like  prisms, 
and  by  bending  the  rays  of  light  that  proceed  from 
the  double  picture,  they  cause  the  two  halves  to 
combine,  and  appear  as  a  single  picture  occupying  a 
central  position  between  the  eyes.  Two  distinct 
images  are  thus  formed  in  the  eyes,  but  in  conse- 


quence  of  the  bending  of  the  rays  of  light,  they  are 
projected  upon  similar  parts  of  the  two  retinae,  and 
seem  to  be  produced  by  a  single  object.  Whether 
the  two  impressions  are  made  by  the  double  picture 
or  by  a  single  solid,  the  same  sensation  is  produced, 
as  in  either  case  the  mind  combines  the  two  impres- 
sions into  the  idea  of  solidity.  The  stereoscope, 
therefore,  enables  us  to  give  a  true  notion  of  the 
form  and  position  of  objects  from  two  flat  represen- 
tations on  paper  or  glass  ;  in  fact,  we  may  see  the 
objects  quite  as  well  as  if  they  stood  before  us. 

Although  the  stereoscope  was  discovered  some 
twenty  years  ago,  it  has  only  lately  become  popular. 
So  long  as  mere  drawings  by  hand  were  used  as 
stereoscopic  slides,  only  regular  bodies,  such  as 
crystals  and  geometric  solids,  could  be  represented  ; 
but  now,  by  the  aid  of  photography,  we  may  obtain 
pictures  of  any  natural  or  artistic  objects. 

When  we  look  at  a  double  photograph  in  the 
stereoscope,  the  picture  to  the  right  is  seen  by  the 
right  eye  only,  and  that  to  the  left,  by  the  left  eye. 
The  two  pictures  are  taken  from  different  points  of 
view,  and  are  exactly  similar  to  the  views  we  obtain 
of  solid  objects,  by  alternately  closing  the  right  and 
left  eyes.  There  is,  therefore,  no  longer  any  doubt 
as  to  the  use  of  two  eyes,  since  by  the  aid  of  photo- 
graphy we  may  obtain  pictures  similar  to  those 
which  the  eyes  receive,  and  these  pictures  combine 
to  produce  the  effect  of  solidity. 

We  are  indebted  to  Professor  Wheatstone  for  the 


discovery  of  the  stereoscope,  a  discovery  which 
Herschel  has  truly  characterized  as  "  one  of  the  most 
curious  and  beautiful  for  its  simplicity  in  the  entire 
range  of  experimental  optics."  The  original  form  of 
the  instrument  has  been  considerably  modified  by 
Sir  David  Brewster,  who  may  indeed  be  regarded  as 
the  inventor  of  the  refracting  or  popular  stereoscope. 

We  will  not  attempt  to  describe  the  innumerable 
family  groups,  landscapes,  portraits,  and  Alpine 
views,  that  photography  has  furnished  for  the  stereo- 
scope. Our  readers  are  doubtless  familiar  with 
them,  as  the  stereoscope  has  become  quite  a  fashion- 
able instrument,  and  has  taken  the  place  of  the 
album  upon  almost  every  drawing-room  table. 

Two  eyes  are  unquestionably  better  than  one, 
nevertheless  persons  with  but  one  eye  are  able  to 
see  distinctly.  This  fact  does  not  refute  what  we 
have  said  about  double  vision.  A  person  with  one 
eye  judges  of  the  relief  of  an  object  from  the  distri- 
bution of  light  and  shade,  but  his  perceptions  are 
much  less  vivid  than  those  of  a  person  with  two  eyes. 
It  has,  moreover,  been  remarked  that  a  one-eyed 
person  when  looking  at  a  solid  object  is  constantly 
changing  the  position  of  the  head  from  side  to  side, 
and  by  this  means  he  obtains  with  one  eye  the  same 
result  that  is  obtained  by  two  eyes  with  the  head 

Our  readers  will  now  understand  why  they  have 
two  eyes  instead  of  one,  and  will  be  able  to  expound 
the  mysteries  of  that  magic  spy-glass,  the  stereoscope. 

' '  Oh,  what  an  endless  work  have  I  in  hand, 
To  count  the  sea's  abundant  progeny  !" — SPENSER. 

FORTUNATE  youth!  What  would  we  not  give  for  a 
glimpse  of  a  live  mermaid,  especially  if  she  hap- 
pened to  be  as  beautiful  as  the  submarine  lady 
portrayed  by  our  artist !  We  do  not  wonder  to  see 
you  peering  over  the  rocks  so  earnestly,  but  we 
entreat  you  to  be  careful,  lest  you  tumble  into  the 
water.  The  belle  of  the  sea  is  prettily  dressed  in 
her  robe  of  sea- weed,  and  the  star-fish  on  her  fore- 
head is  a  most  becoming  ornament.  But  how  would 
you  look  in  the  sea  with  your  clean  blouse  and 
collar  all  wet  and  limp,  with  your  trousers  shrank 
up  to  your  knees,  and  your  boots  full  of  water? 
Held  tight  to  the  rock  then,  inquisitive  youth, 
for  we  fear  you  would  look  a  pitiable  object  as  a 
sea-boy ! 

Would  the  reader  like  to  take  a  peep  at  the  home 
of  the  mermaid  1     If  so,  let  him  follow  us  in  imagi- 
nation to  the  bottom  of  the  sea.     We  cannot  pro- 
mise him  a  sight  of  the  mermaid  herself,  but  we 


can  show  him  some  of  the  inhabitants  of  the  deep 
that  are  scarcely  less  wonderful.  Candidly  speak- 
ing, we  do  not  believe  in  the  existence  of  the  fair 
lady  with  the  fishy  tail;  but  for  the  sake  of  our 
fairy  tale,  we  will  assume  that  she  does  exist,  but 
is  so  excessively  shy  that  she  makes  a  point  of  con- 
cealing herself  at  the  approach  of  strangers. 

The  mermaid's  home  is  beneath  the  wave,  but  we 
must  not  suppose  that  it  is  situated  at  an  unfathom- 
able depth  in  the  ocean.  The  lady  is  far  too  fond 
of  life  and  light  to  reside  in  a  region  beyond  the 
reach  of  the  genial  influence  of  the  sunbeam.  De- 
pend upon  it,  she  has  selected  some  quiet  bay, 
guarded  by  impassable  rocks,  for  her  habitation — a 
bay  whose  waters  are  not  too  deep  nor  yet  too 

Here  is  just  such  a  bay  as  a  mermaid  might 
choose  as  a  safe  abode.  Look  how  snugly  the 
rocks  shut  it  in  on  either  side :  a  sea-nymph  might 
pass  her  days  here  without  fear  of  molestation.  Let 
us  walk  to  the  end  of  yonder  jutting  rock.  ~Now, 
if  you  wish  to  visit  the  mermaid's  home,  prepare  for 
a  dive,  so — one,  two,  three — and  in  you  go  head 
foremost ! 

We  are  now  safe  on  land ;  not  on  dry  land,  be  it 
understood,  but  on  the  floor  of  the  sea,  with  a  good 
many  feet  of  water  overhead.  We  have  ceased  to 
be  human  beings  subject  to  death  by  drowning,  and 
have  become  the  heroes  of  a  fairy  tale  whom  the 
elements  cannot  harm. 


Looking  around,  we  perceive  a  host  of  wonders. 
We  are  in  a  new  world,  whose  plants  and  animals 
have  no  resemblance  to  those  of  the  world  we  have 
just  quitted.  Dense  forests  of  many-coloured  algoe 
are  outspread  before  us ;  uncouth  creatures  crawl  at 
our  feet,  and  fairy-like  forms  flit  around  us. 

If  we  wish  to  obtain  a  correct  impression  of  these 
submarine  wonders,  we  must  examine  them  sepa- 
rately in  regular  order.  We  will  therefore  confine 
our  attention  at  present  to  the  beautiful  herbs 
that  grow  in  the  mermaid's  garden,  and  the  minia- 
ture trees  of  her  parks  and  forests. 

This  lovely  group  of  algee,  misnamed  weeds,  will 
afford  us  ample  types  of  marine  vegetation.  One  of 
these  plants  has  broad  leaves  of  a  beautiful  emerald- 
green,  as  thin  as  the  finest  cambric,  and  strangely 
puckered  and  folded  at  their  edges.*  The  mermaid 
doubtless  makes  use  of  these  delicate  leaves  in  place 
of  silk  or  muslin,  unless  indeed  she  eats  them  as  a 
salad.  Beside  this  flimsy  plant  we  see  a  cluster  of 
crimson  leaves,  some  five  or  six  inches  long,  and  of 
a  most  graceful  form.t  The  mermaid  must  take 
some  pains  to  cultivate  this  herb,  as  its  gorgeous 
colouring  renders  it  a  striking  feature  in  her  garden. 
Here  is  a  tuft  of  what  seems  to  be  fine  grass;  here 
a  group  of  rosy  leaves;  and  here  a  tiny  tree  of 
a  beautiful  purple  hue. 

In  this  little  parterre  we  may  find  all  the  colours 
of  the  rainbow,  and  a  wonderful  variety  of  forms; 
*  Green  Laver  or  Ulva.  t  Delesseria 



some  of  the  plants  are  cut  into  fringes,  some  are 
spread  out  like  fans ;  and  others  are  divided  into  as 
many  segments  as  are  the  graceful  ferns  of  our 
woods.  None  of  the  marine  plants  in  this  group 
bear  flowers,  but  nature  has  given  them  such  bril- 
liant hues  that  this  fact  might  easily  have  escaped 
our  notice. 

Let  us  now  glance  at  some  of  the  mermaid's 
subjects,  assuming  the  invisible  lady  to  be  the  queen 
of  these  submarine  realms. 

Among  the  "happy  living  things"  of  the  sea,  the 
fishes  occupy  the  foremost  rank,  but  we  cannot 
bestow  much  time  upon  them,  as  we  have  to  examine 
many  less  familiar  creatures.  But  here  comes  one 
little  fish  whose  strongly  marked  peculiarities  at 
once  attract  our  attention.  His  body  is  of  a  pale 
brown  colour,  with  drab  clouds,  and  patches  of  white 
specks.  He  looks  a  terrible  fellow,  in  spite  of  his 
mild  eyes,  which  are  light  blue,  and  closely  resemble 
turquoises.*  Now  he  hides  beneath  a  broad  frond 
of  sea- weed,  but  we  can  see  his  wicked  face  project- 
ing from  the  covert.  We  will  watch  this  gentleman 
closely,  as  we  half  suspect  that  there  is  some  mis- 
chief brewing.  Another  fish  now  appears  upon  tt*e 
scene,  a  gentle  and  an  unsuspicious  fish  to  judge  from 
his  expression,  a  fish  who  would  not  hurt  a  fly — 
unless  he  happened  to  be  hungry.  Now  this  simple- 
minded  creature  approaches  the  place  where  he  with 
the  turquoise  eyes  waits  in  ambush.  Assassin-like, 
*  The  Black  Goby. 


the  blue-eyed  monster  darts  from  his  hiding-place, 
seizes  his  victim  by  the  tail,  and  swallows  him  alive ! 
Just  look  at  the  cannibal  now ;  his  distended  body 
has  become  almost  black,  and  bears  witness  to  the 
blackness  of  his  crime !  How  can  the  mermaid 
tolerate  such  a  subject  in  her  dominions ! 

As  we  stand  on  the  sea-floor,  the  fishes  that  dart 
through  the  pale  green  atmosphere  of  water  seem 
to  be  birds.  That  shoal  overhead  looks  very  like  a 
flight  of  swallows;  and  these  restless  little  fishes, 
who  are  perpetually  quarrelling  and  chasing  each 
other,  remind  us  forcibly  of  sparrows.  What  grace 
and  symmetry  belong  to  the  forms  of  these  finny 
inhabitants  of  the  deep,  and  what  exquisite  hues 
gleam  from  their  resplendent  coats  of  mail ! 

See,  here  come  emissaries  from  the  Court  of 
Oberoii  !  No,  they  are  merely  shrimps  and  prawns, 
though  their  transparency  and  lightness,  their 
graceful  gliding  movements,  and  the  long  and 
slender  wands  they  wave,  entitle  them  to  be  consi- 
dered the  fairies  of  the  sea.  Those  who  are  only 
familiar  with  these  creatures  in  their  boiled  condi- 
tion, can  form  no  adequate  conception  of  their  ap- 
pearance during  life.  In  the  mermaid's  garden 
these  fairy-like  beings  take  the  place  of  moths  and 

Look  at  this  little  fellow,  who  moves  about  by 
discharging  jets  of  water  from  a  small  tube  or 
siphon — a  mode  of  progression  not  uncommon 
among  marine  organisms.  He  hovers  over  a  clear 


patch  of  sand,  as  though  about  to  settle,  while  by 
means  of  his  magic  siphon  he  blows  the  sand  from 
under  him  until  a  slight  hollow  is  formed.  Now  he 
settles,  but  it  is  quite  evident  that  his  siphon  is  still 
at  work,  for  the  sand  issues  from  all  sides  of  his 
globiilar  body  in  a  little  cloud,  and  he  gradually 
sinks  till  nothing  can  be  seen  of  him  save  his  strag- 
gling arms  and  curious  eyes.  The  mermaid  has 
many  expert  miners  in  her  service,  but  none  to 
excel  this  cunning  little  well-sinker.* 

These  submarine  regions  are  thickly  populated 
by  wondrous  beings  so  transparent  that  they  can 
only  be  distinguished  by  the  flashes  of  light  that 
gleam  from  their  surfaces.  Their  substance  is  gela- 
tinous, and,  strange  as  it  may  appear,  consists  chiefly 
of  sea- water.  Let  us  now  examine  a  few  of  these 
living  bubbles  with  the  superior  powers  of  vision 
which  we  possess  as  heroes  of  a  fairy  tale. 

How  can  we  doubt  the  existence  of  mermaids, 
when  we  find  animals  assuming  the  forms  of 
umbrellas,  goblets,  and  bells  !  Look  !  here  comes  a 
living  umbrella,  moving  through  the  water  by  open- 
ing and  shutting  itself.  Now,  readeYjs^t  flaps  itself 
under  your  very  nose,  and  you  may  inspect  it  nar- 
rowly. You  will  perceive,  that  it  is  rather  an  un- 
common sort  of  umbrella,  as  it  has  four  sticks 
instead  of  one,  and  is  furnished  with  a  number  of 
tendril-like  appendages.  You  will  also  see  that  it 
is  neither  made  of  silk  nor  gingham,  but  of  a  deli- 
*  The  Cuttle. 


cate  transparent  jelly.*  This  living  umbrella  may 
be  taken  as  a  type  of  the  numerous  gelatinous 
parachutes,  bells,  vases,  and  cups  that  glide  through 
the  sea. 

But  here  is  a  little  object  which  deserves  a  sepa- 
rate notice,  for  it  bears  no  outward  resemblance  to 
the  bell-shaped  creatures,  though  closely  related  to 
them.  It  is  not  easy  to  distinguish  the  form  of  this 
living  lump  of  jelly.  Now  you  may  see  it,  though, 
if  you  look  closely  as  the  light  just  catches  its  sur- 
face. See,  it  is  a  little  egg-shaped  ball  of  crystal, 
marked  with  longitudinal  bands  of  the  prismatic 
colours.  Two  long  threads,  that  look  like  spun 
glass,  may  be  seen  depending  from  its  exterior,  and 
these  threads,  if  examined  attentively,  will  be  found 
to  be  fringed  with  yet  finer  threads  or  tendrils. 
Now  this  creature  vanishes,  and  we  are  left  to 
wonder  how  so  much  beauty  could  be  compressed 
into  so  small  a  compass  !f 

Many  of  these  gelatinous  little  creatures,  which 
have  been  learnedly  named  Acalephce,  are  phospho- 
rescent, and  at  night  they  cause  the  sea  to  assume 
the  appearance  of  liquid  fire.  How  beautiful  must 
be  the  mermaid's  home,  when  illuminated  by  myriads 
of  these  living  lamps  ! 

Suppose  we   now    take   a  peep  at  some   of  the 

creatures  that  dwell  in  the  crannies  of  these  jagged 

rocks  and  wander  through  these  miniature  forests. 

We  shall    find   them  to  be  quite    as    remarkable 

*  Pelagia.  f  Cydippe. 


as  the  free-swimming  inhabitants  of  these  submarine 
regions.  The  members  of  the  great  crab  family 
are  very  conspicuous  objects.  They  scuttle  about  in 
all  directions,  and  their  little  bony  eyes  squint  at 
us  from  out  of  every  cranny.  There  goes  a  monster 
belonging  to  the  edible  species — take  care  of  his 
formidable  nippers,  or  perhaps  you  will  have  cause 
to  repent  your  visit  to  the  home  of  the  mermaid. 
Now  he  passes  edgewise  through  a  narrow  chink  in 
the  rocks,  and  so  disappears.  We  are  not  sorry  to 
be  rid  of  such  an  ugly  customer. 

Look  at  that  funny  little  fellow  sitting  on  that 
large  stone.  He  is  a  crab  with  some  points  that 
suggest  the  notion  of  a  lobster — fringed  swimming 
plates  on  the  last  joint  of  the  body,  large  foot-jaws, 
and  very  long  feelers.  Now  he  jumps  off  the  stone, 
and  by  flapping  his  tail,  swims  just  enough  to 
enable  himself  to  reach  the  sandy  bottom  slantwise, 
instead  of  going  straight  down  like  some  of  his 
clumsier  brethren.  He  now  crawls  about  the  sea- 
floor,  evidently  in  search  ofsomething,  and  now  he 
disappears  beneath  a  loose  stohe.  He  does  not  want 
much  space,  for  he  is  as  flat  and  thin  as  if  he  had 
been  trodden  upon. 

The  naturalist  has  brought  to  light  some  strange 
facts  illustrative  of  the  domestic  economy  of  this 
little  crab.  He  usually  clings  to  the  under  side  of 
some  flat  stone  or  ledge  of  rock,  and  takes  in  the  food 
that  is  brought  to  his  door.  His  long  feelers  are 
constantly  groping  about  for  provender,  which  he 


fishes  in  with  his  outer  foot-jaws.  Each  of  these 
jaws  is  like  a  sickle,  composed  of  five  joints  beset 
with  parallel  bristles.  When  the  jaw  is  straight- 
ened, the  bristles  stand  apart  and  let  the  water 
flow  freely  between  them ;  when  the  joints  are 
bent  to  a  curve,  the  bristles  overlap  and  form  a  net 
or  hair  spoon.  This  net  is  the  more  perfect  because 
each  bristle  itself  is  feathered  with  two  rows  of 
hair.  After  a  haul,  the  little  fisherman  picks  what 
he  likes  to  eat  out  of  his  net,  and  casts  again.  He 
throws  his  net  out,  with  the  claws  extended,  and 
the  meshes  consequently  open,  so  that  all  rejected 
particles  are  washed  away  ;  then  he  again  makes  for 
himself  a  spoon  wherewith  to  pick  up  victuals. 

In  addition  to  his  nippers  this  crab  has  four 
pairs  of  legs ;  but  only  three  pairs  are  at  first 
sight  visible.  The  fourth  is  a  very  tiny  pair, 
folded  down  in  a  groove  beneath  the  edges  of  the 
shell.  Each  of  these  little  legs  has  at  the  end  a 
pair  of  fingers  and  a  little  brush  of  hairs.  With 
the  two  brushes  it  scrubs  and  cleanses  its  whole 
body,  and  with  the  two  pairs  of  fingers — each  being 
more  properly  comparable  to  a  finger  and  thumb — 
it  picks  off  any  dirt  that  cannot  be  removed  by 

But  who  is  that  long-legged  little  gentleman  with 
the  crusty  and  prickly  body?  He  is  another  mem- 
ber of  the  prolific  crab  family,  and  is  perhaps  one 
of  the  most  valuable  servants  in  the  mermaid's  em- 
*  The  Porcelain  Crab. 


ploy.  He  fulfils  the  important  duties  of  a  sca- 
venger, and  takes  care  that  no  decaying  vegetable 
or  animal  matter  shall  remain  long  enough  to  be 
prejudicial  to  the  purity  of  the  sea.  Instead  of 
carting  away  the  offal,  this  extraordinary  little 
fellow  crams  it  into  his  stomach,  and  appears  to 
think  it  peculiarly  palatable.* 

Look  at  those  shells  that  are  moving  about  so 
clumsily  among  the  pebbles.  They  are  the  habita- 
tions of  the  soft-tailed  crabs,  who  being  unprovided 
with  defensive  armour  are  forced  to  seek  shelter  in  the 
empty  shells  of  different  mollusca.  There  is  a  toler- 
ably large  specimen  of  these  creatures  inhabiting  a 
whelk-shell.  Look  how  awkwardly  his  claws,  legs, 
and  feelers  loll  out  of  the  mouth  of  the  shell ;  you 
would  almost  think  that  such  a  strange  bunch  of 
limbs  wouldbe  utterly  useless  to  the  imprisoned  crea- 
ture. Here  comes  another,  dragging  a  still  larger 
shell  after  him,  so  prepare  to  witness  a  battle,  for 
these  creatures  are  terribly  pugnacious.  Now  they 
meet,  andNa^gin  to  fight  in  earnest,  tossing  their 
legs  and  claws  about  in  a  most  excited  manner. 
Look  how  clumsily  they  tumble  over  each  other,  and 
you  must  confess  that  a  more  comical  duel  never 
took  place  either  above  or  below  the  wave.  But  see, 
the  larger  crab  appears  to  have  got  the  worst  of  the 
fight,  for  he  is  scrambling  off  as  fast  as  his  legs  can 
carry  him.  These  humorous  creatures  must  afford 
the  mermaid  considerable  amusement,  indeed,  it  is 
*  The  Spider  Crab. 


highly  probable  that  they  are  the  jesters  of  her 

So  many  strange  forms  meet  our  vision  in  these 
submarine  realms,  that  we  are  puzzled  as  to  which 
we  ought  to  select  for  examination.  Look  at  all 
these  richly-coloured  and  gracefully-formed  shells  ; 
each  has  its  peculiar  tenant,  about  which  many  won- 
derful things  might  be  related.  The  shells,  though 
beautiful  themselves,  are  not  to  be  compared  with 
some  of  their  inhabitants.  Look  at  that  periwinkle, 
for  instance,  who  is  now  devouring  the  tender 
shoots  of  that  plant,  you  must  own  that  his  zebra 
stripes  and  netted  markings  are  exceedingly  orna- 
mental. But  the  periwinkle  is  not  nearly  so  attrac- 
tive as  some  of  the  fleshy  creatures  that  may  be 
seen  protruding  from  their  shells,  and  which  have 
the  richest  hues  imaginable. 

Again,  just  glance  at  those  sea-si  ugs.f  How  can 
we  describe  their  various  forms  and  colours  ?  Here 
is  one  of  a  bright  lemon  colour,  with  a  beautiful 
plume  of  feathers  springing  from  his  back  ;  here 
another  of  a  pearly  white,  wearing  numerous  club- 
like  ornaments  ;  and  here  a  third,  of  a  dingy  grey, 
but  furnished  with  a  pretty  little  bouquet  of  flowers. 
The  reader  will  perhaps  be  surprised  when  we  tell 
him  that  these  plumes,  and  clubs,  and  flowers  enable 
the  sea-slugs  to  breathe ;  yet  such  is  the  fact,  for 
all  these  ornamental  appendages  perform  the  same 
functions  as  our  lungs. 

*  The  Hermit  Crabs.  t  The  Nudibranch  Mollusca. 


Here  is  a  curious  creature,  closely  resembling 
those  we  have  just  examined,  in  form  and  substance, 
but  belonging  to  a  totally  different  class  of  beings. 
It  looks  like  a  milk-white  slug,  but  if  we  inspect  it 
carefully,  we  shall  find  that  it  is  provided  with  five 
rows  of  delicate  sucking  arms,  by  means  of  which 
it  clings  firmly  to  the  surface  of  the  rock.  It  also 
has  a  chocolate-coloured  head,  tipped  with  a  ring  of 
feathery  gills  of  white  and  primrose.  Those  natu- 
ralists who  have  studied  the  habits  of  marine  crea- 
tures, inform  us  that  this  white  slug  will  throw 
away  its  inside  when  irritated,  the  body  remaining 
but  an  empty  sac ;  yet  in  a  month  or  so  the 
creature  will  begin  to  eat  as  greedily  as  ever,  a 
fresh  set  of  digestive  organs  having  grown  in  the 

Our  artist  has  furnished  his  mermaid  with  a  couple 
of  star-shaped  ornaments,  and  here  we  may  see 
plenty  of  similar  stars  in  motion.  Whether  we 
regard  their  symmetrical  forms  or  their  brilliant 
hues,  we  must  admit  these  living  stars  to  be  the 
most  remarkable  inhabitants  of  these  realms  of 
wonder.  Even  this  dtisky  red  onet  possesses  great 
beauty,  though  its  flaming  relatives  throw  it  into 
the  shade.  You  see  it  has  five  broad  rays,  but  you 
must  not  suppose  that  these  rays  fulfil  the  office  of 
legs,  for  the  creature's  legs,  if  so  we  may  call  them, 
are  thousands  of  tiny  suckers,  protruding  through 

*  The  Holothuria.  f  Five-finger  Star. 


holes  in  its  under  surface.  Another  member  of  the 
starry  family  may  be  seen  clinging  to  the  smooth 
surface  of  yonder  rock, — a  twelve-rayed  sun  of  the 
richest  scarlet.*  Here  is  another,  a  pentagonal 
disc  of  scarlet  and  orange  ;t  and  here  again  another, 
a  little  flower-like  disc  with  five  long  prickly  arms 
that  move  about  in  a  graceful  serpentine  manner.  :£ 
The  last-named  creature  is  extremely  sensitive  to* 
insult,  and  were  you  to  handle  him  too  roughly,  he 
would  probably  commit  deliberate  suicide  by  break- 
ing himself  into  little  bits. 

But  how  did  that  little  hedgehog  find  his  way 
hither?  Examine  him  closely,  and  you  will  see 
that  he  is  not  an  ordinary  hedgehog.  He  is  cer- 
tainly covered  over  with  prickles,  but  these  instead 
of  being  of  a  dark  brown  are  of  a  pretty  violet 
colour.  Again,  his  form  is  much  more  regular  than 
that  of  his  terrestrial  namesake,  and  he  has  neither 
head  nor  legs.  He  is  a  distant  relative  of  the  living 
stars,  though  you  would  hardly  think  so,  judging 
from  his  external  appearance.  § 

Look  at  these  stony  tubes  twisted  so  curiously 
into  a  tangled  group.  These  are  the  habitations  of 
some  of  the  mermaid's  subjects.  See!  from  the 
mouth  of  one  of  these  tubes  a  conical  stopper  of  a 
bright  scarlet  colour  emerges,  and  now  a  row  of 
feathery  objects  which  slowly  spread  themselves  out 

*  Sun- star.  t  Bird's-foot  Star.  £  Brittle-star. 

$  Echinus,  or  Sea-urchin. 


into  an  elegant  scarlet  plume.  Now  another  little 
stopper  makes  its  appearance;  another  and  another ; 
and  now  each  tube  is  crowned  with  its  lovely  tuft 
of  feathers.  Presto !  they  have  disappeared,  plumes 
and  stoppers  vanished  like  magic  as  a  large  fish 
passed  over  them.* 

This  rock  is  studded  over  with  tiny  conical  shells, 
each  of  which  contains  a  living  creature,  quite  as 
wonderful  as  the  tube-inhabiting  worm.  If  you 
make  good  use  of  your  "  microscopic  eye,"  you  will 
see  that  each  little  shell  opens  at  the  tip,  and  that  a 
delicate  white  feathery  object  is  alternately  pro- 
truded and  withdrawn  through  the  aperture.  This 
tiny  white  feather  is  a  veritable  casting  net,  and 
every  time  it  is  spread  out  it  catches  some  invisible 
particles  of  food.t 

We  have  glanced  at  a  few  of  the  Mermaid's  sub- 
jects, to  count  them  all  would  indeed  be  •''  an  end- 
less task."  In  another  chapter  we  shall  describe  at 
length  some  of  the  marvellous  flowers  that  bloom 
in  these  submarine  regions.  Would  that  we  could 
introduce  the  reader  to  the  mermaid  herself,  but  we 
sadly  fear  that  she  will  never  figure  in  the  fairy 
tales  of  science.  We  are  rather  inclined  to  think 
that  she  ceased  to  exist  with  the  dragons  and  griffins 
of  that  marvellous  age  known  as  "once  upon  a  time." 
But  perhaps  she  does  exist  after  all,  and  only  keeps 
out  of  the  way  of  the  naturalist,  for  fear  he  should 

*  Serpulse.  t  Balanus,  or  Acorn-shell. 


bestow  upon  her  some  hard  Latin  name.  However 
this  may  be,  it  is  quite  certain  that  the  naturalist 
has  never  caught  a  glipse  of  this  mysterious  being, 
though  he  has  discovered  many  objects  in  the  sea 
quite  as  extraordinary.  And  now,  reader,  we  will 
once  more  become  air-breathers,  and  bid  farewell 
to  the  Mermaid's  Home. 

"  Here,  too,  were  living  flowers, 
Which,  like  a  bud  compacted, 
Their  purple  cups  contracted  ; 
And  now  in  open  blossom  spread, 
Stretch 'd,  like  green  anthers,  many  a  seeking  head." 


THE  flowers  of  the  sea  far  surpass  those  of  the  land 
in  splendid  and  gorgeous  colouring.  In  the  "  gardens 
of  N"ereus"  there  are  anemones  of  the  richest  crim- 
son, purple,  and  orange;  chrysanthemums,  beauti- 
fully striped  and  variegated ;  carnations,  whose  petals 
are  exquisitely  cut  and  fringed ;  and  dahlias,  so  per- 
fect in  form  that  they  could  not  fail  to  win  the 
admiration  of  enthusiastic  flower-fanciers. 

But  these  flowers  are  not  only  beautiful.  Nature 
has  endowed  them  with  wonderful  powers.  They 
fold  and  expand  their  petals  at  will;  some  of  them 
can  move  from  place  to  place;  and  others  are  so 
peculiarly  sensitive,  that  the  slightest  touch  will 
cause  them  to  shrink  into  shapeless  lumps  of  jelly. 

What  are  these  extraordinary  beings?  Are  they 
plants  or  animals,  or  do  they  stand  upon  some  de- 
bateable  ground  between  the  two  great  kingdoms  of 


organic  nature?  In  ancient  times  they  were  doubt- 
less regarded  as  sea-nymphs  metamorphosed  into 
flowers ;  but  we  fear  that  this  opinion  would  have 
little  weight  in  the  present  age  of  science.  Expound 
the  riddle,  good  naturalist,  and  tell  us  all  about 
these  animated  flowers ! 

Well,  to  put  an  end  to  the  reader's  suspense,  we 
will  at  once  inform  him  that  these  magic  flowers  are 
true  animals.  Nor  will  this  statement  surprise  him, 
since  he  has  already  seen  what  marvellous  forms 
may  be  endowed  with  animal  life.  He  has  seen 
living  plumes,  living  stars,  and  living  umbrellas,  all 
of  which  are  quite  as  wonderful  as  these  living 

The  sea-anemones  are  by  far  the  most  conspicuous 
of  the  wild-flowers  of  the  deep,  and  we  will  there- 
fore give  them  the  precedence  in  our  examination. 
If  we  wander  about  the  sea-beach  at  low  tide,  we 
may  find  plenty  of  these  creatures  attached  to  the 
rocks  and  stones  left  bare  by  the  receding  waves. 
The  commonest  are  those  known  as  the  smooth 
anemones,*  which  seem,  when  out  of  the  water,  to 
be  mere  knobs  of  jelly.  On  touching  them  you  find 
that  they  are  tough  and  leathery,  though  you  would 
never  have  imagined  so  from  their  appearance. 
These  little  knobs  are  variously  coloured,  but  diffe- 
rent shades  of  green  and  red  are  their  prevailing 

When  the  sea  comes  up  and  covers  the  anemones 
*  Actinia  Mesembryanthemum. 


they  assume  the  most  lovely  shapes.  Each  lump  of 
jelly  expands  into  a  beautiful  flower,  having  some- 
what the  form  of  a  chrysanthemum,  but  a  far  more 
brilliant  colour.  When  fully  expanded,  each  flower 
displays  a  ring  of  turquoise  beads,  whose  pure  blue 
forms  a  beautiful  contrast  to  the  crimson,  purple, 
and  orange  tints  of  the  petals. 

These  jewelled  flowers  are  not  to  be  compared 
with  their  aristocratic  relations,  the  thick-horned 
anemones.*  Words  can  convey  no  idea  of  the 
beauty  of  these  creatures.  They  are  much  larger 
than  the  last  species,  and  some  of  them,  when  ex- 
panded, are  five  or  six  inches  across.  Their  petals, 
which  are  very  thick  in  proportion  to  their  length, 
are  delicately  transparent,  and  prettily  striped  and 
ringed  with  various  brilliant  colours.  These  ani- 
mated flowers  have  been  well  likened  to  quilled 
dahlias;  but  to  complete  the  simile,  we  must  sup- 
pose that  the  terrestrial  flowers  have  petals  of 

The  daisy -anemone  f  is  another  beautiful  species. 
They  may  be  found  in  abundance  upon  some  coasts, 
in  the  tide-pools  and  hollows.  In  the  sunshine  of 
a  fair  day  they  expand  beautifully,  and  you  may  see 
them  studding  the  face  of  the  rock  just  beneath  the 
surface  of  the  water,  from  the  size  of  a  shilling  to 
that  of  a  crown-piece.  If  you  touch  one  of  these 
sensitive  daisies,  its  circular  disc  will  at  once  begin 
to  curl  and  pucker  at  its  margin,  and  soon  take  the 
*  Bunodes  Crassicornis.  t  Actinia  Bellis. 



form  of  a  cup;  if  further  annoyed,  the  rim  of  this 
cup  will  contract  more  and  more,  until  it  closes. 
The  diameter  of  the  disc  is  nearly  four  times  that 
of  the  body  at  the  point  from  which  it  expands. 
The  petals  are  very  small,  but  numerous,  and  are 
ai'ranged  on  the  disc  in  about  six  rows.  As  for 
colouring,  the  daisy  is  not  surpassed  by  any  flower 
of  the  deep;  for  though  its  tints  are  less  brilliant 
than  those  of  the  living  chrysanthemums  and 
dahlias,  they  are  so  beautifully  blended  one  into 
another,  that  they  cause  the  little  creature  to 
appear  quite  as  lovely  as  its  flaring  cousins.  The 
upper  surface  of  the  disc  is  of  a  rich  umber  brown, 
merging  into  lavender-colour  towards  the  edge ;  the 
petals  brown,  blotched  and  speckled  with  white, 
and  the  base  white,  passing  into  pink,  then  lilac, 
and  becoming  purple  as  it  joins  the  disc. 

But  of  all  the  flowers  that  bloom  in  the  sea,  per- 
haps the  plumose  anemone*  is  the  most  magnificent. 
It  is  much  taller  than  any  of  the  creatures  we  have 
described,  and  excels  them  in  delicacy  of  colouring  ; 
pure  white,  pearly  grey,  or  faint  rose,  taking  the 
place  of  scarlet,  olive,  or  brown.  It  is,  indeed,  a 
creature  of  sxirpassing  loveliness,  and  has  justly 
been  styled  the  maiden  queen  of  all  the  beautiful 

The  sea-anemones  are  terribly  voracious,  devour- 
ing everything  that  comes  within  their  reach.  We 
are  not  romancing,  dear  reader,  these  flowers  of  the 
*  Actinia  Dianthus. 


sea  have  wonderful  appetites,  and  are  endowed  with 
digestive  powers  that  the  human  gourmand  might 
well  covet.  If  we  examine  the  internal  structure 
of  these  anomalous  beings,  we  shall  be  able  to  ac- 
count for  their  voracity. 

A  sea-anemone  may  be  likened  to  a  double  bag ; 
the  outer  bag  forming  the  exterior  of  the  animal, 
and  the  inner  one  its  stomach ;  the  intervening 
space  being  divided  into  numerous  chambers,  by 
vertical  partitions,  which  pass  ill  a  radiating  direc- 
tion between  the  outer  surface  of  the  stomach  and 
the  general  integument.  The  arms  or  tentacles  of 
the  anemone,  which  we  have  hitherto  spoken  of  as 
petals,  are  hollow,  and  communicate  with  the  in- 
ternal chambers.  These  chambers  are  always  filled 
with  water,  and  by  the  contraction  of  the  walls, 
water  is  forced  into  the  hollow  tentacles.  The  ten- 
tacles are  also  provided  with  small  orifices  at  the 
extremity,  that  can  be  opened  or  closed  by  the 
animal.  Water  is  taken  in  by  these  orifices,  so  as 
to  distend  the  radiating  chambers  and  tentacles,  and 
is  ejected  with  considerable  violence  through  the 
same  apertures  whenever  the  creature  is  alarmed. 
The  tentacles  are  placed  in  rows  round  the  mouth, 
which  is  usually  circular  or  oval. 

Although  the  anemone  is  a  mere  membranous 
bag  distended  with  sea-water,  it  is  endowed  with 
powers  that  render  it  more  than  a  match  for  many 
animals  occupying  a  much  higher  position  in  the 
scale  of  being.  No  sooner  does  a  small  fish,  a  crab, 


or  a  shelled  mollusk  come  within  reach  of  its  ten- 
tacles, than  it  is  seized  by  them,  and  drawn  to  the 
gaping  mouth  of  the  greedy  flower,  the  tentacles 
closing  upon  it  on  all  sides.  After  awhile  the  ten- 
tacles again  expand,  and  an  empty  crust  or  shell  is 
ejected  through  the  mouth,  the  nourishing  contents 
having  been  mysteriously  extracted  in  the  stomach 
of  the  anemone. 

And  now,  abstemious  reader,  can  you  wonder  at 
the  voracity  of  these  strange  creatures  ?  If  you 
had  a  stomach  of  proportional  capacity,  a  mouth 
equally  extensive,  and  a  hundred  arms  constantly 
picking  up  dainties,  depend  upon  it  you  would  be 
quite  as  voracious  ! 

The  anemone  attaches  itself  to  the  rock  by  means 
of  a  sucking  base,  but  it  seldom  remains  long  in  the 
same  place.  In  travelling  it  pushes  forward  one 
poi-tion  of  the  base,  and  having  fixed  it  firmly, 
draws  the  remaining  portion  after  it,  a  mode  of 
progression  very  similar  to  that  adopted  by  the 
snail.  There  are  many  more  wonderful  things  con- 
nected with  the  sea-anemones  which  we  cannot  stop 
to  consider,  as  we  must  now  pass  on  to  another 
kind  of  living  flower. 

The  madrepore*  is  allied  to  the  anemones,  but 
differs  from  them  in  many  important  points.  This 
beautiful  little  flower  of  the  sea  has  a  stony  skele- 
ton, consisting  of  a  number  of  thin  chalky  plates 
standing  up  edgewise,  and  arranged  in  a  radiating 
*  Caryophyllia  Smithii. 


manner  round  a  low  centre.  We  have  informed 
the  reader  that  the  interior  of  an  anemone  is 
divided  into  numerous  chambers  by  perpendicular 
veils  of  membrane.  If  he  will  now  imagine  that 
every  one  of  these  membranes  is  turned  into  stone, 
he  will  understand  the  formation  of  the  madrepore's 
skeleton,  and  its  relation  to  the  soft  investing  flesh. 

Mr.  Gosse,  the  naturalist,  to  whom  we  are  in- 
debted for  many  striking  facts  relating  to  the  beau- 
tiful inhabitants  of  the  sea,  has  given  a  charming 
description  of  the  living  madrepore  in  one  of  his 
pleasant  books.  "  Let  it,"  he  says,  "  after  being 
torn  from  the  rock,  recover  its  equanimity ;  then 
you  will  see  a  pellucid  gelatinous  flesh  emerging 
from  between  the  plates,  and  little  exquisitely 
formed  and  coloured  tentacles,  with  white  clubbed 
tips  fringing  the  sides  of  the  cup-shaped  cavity  in 
the  centre,  across  which  stretches  the  oval  disc, 
marked  with  a  star  of  some  rich  and  brilliant 
colour,  surrounding  the  central  mouth,  a  slit  with 
white  crenated  lips,  like  the  orifice  of  one  of  those 
elegant  cowry-shells  which  we  put  upon  our  mantle- 
pieces.  The  mouth  is  always  more  or  less  promi- 
nent, and  can  be  protruded  and  expanded  to  an 
astonishing  extent.  The  space  surrounding  the  lips 
is  commonly  fawn-colour  or  rich  chesnut  brown ; 
the  star,  or  vandyked  circle,  rich  red,  pale  vermilion, 
and  sometimes  the  most  brilliant  emerald  green,  as 
brilliant  as  the  gorget  of  a  humming-bird." 

The   madrepores   are  quite   as   greedy  as   their 


wandering  friends  the  anemones,  and  the  presence 
of  food  stimulates  them  to  more  active  efforts  and 
the  display  of  greater  intelligence  than  we  should 
give  them  credit  for.  Mr.  Gosse  relates  a  very 
amusing  anecdote  about  feeding  a  madrepore.  He 
once  put  a  minute  spider,  as  large  as  a  pin's  head, 
into  the  water,  pushing  it  down  with  a  bit  of  grass 
to  a  coral,  which  was  lying  with  partially  exposed 
tentacles.  The  instant  the  insect  touched  the  tip 
of  the  tentacle  it  adhered,  and  was  drawn  in  with 
the  surrounding  tentacles  between  the  plates,  near 
their  inward  margin.  Watching  the  animal  with 
a  lens,  he  saw  the  small  mouth  slowly  open,  and 
move  over  to  that  side,  the  lips  gaping  unsymme- 
trically ;  while  at  the  same  time,  by  a  movement  as 
imperceptible  as  that  of  the  hour-hand  of  a  watch, 
the  tiny  prey  was  carried  along  between  the  plates 
towards  the  corner  of  the  mouth.  The  latter,  how- 
evei',  moved  most,  and  at  length  reached  the  edges 
of  the  plates,  and  gradually  took  in  and  closed  upon 
the  insect ;  after  which  it  slowly  returned  to  its 
usual  place  in  the  centre  of  the  disc.  After  some 
quarter  of  an  hour  Mr.  Gosse  caught  a  house-fly, 
and  taking  hold  of  its  wings  with  a  pair  of  pliers, 
plunged  it  under  water.  The  tentacles  held  it  at 
the  first  contact  as  before,  and  drew  it  down  upon 
the  mouth,  which  instantly  began  to  gape  in  expec- 
tation. But  the  struggles  of  the  fly's  legs  perhaps 
tickled  the  coral's  tentacles  in  an  unwonted  man- 
ner, for  they  shrank  away,  and  presently  released 


the  intended  victim,  which  rose  to  the  surface  like 
a  cork ;  only,  however,  to  become  the  breakfast  of 
an  expectant  daisy,  which  was  much  too  wise  to 
reject  or  let  slip  so  dainty  a  prey.  The  poor  coral 
evidently  regretted  the  untoward  necessity  of  let- 
ting it  go,  for  his  mouth  kept  gaping  for  some  time 
after  the  escape.* 

The  animated  flowers  of  the  tropical  seas  far  sur- 
pass those  that  bloom  on  our  own  shores.  In  the 
Red  Sea,  for  instance,  branching  corals,  madrepores, 
anemones  of  the  most  brilliant  hues,  flourish  in  such 
luxuriance  as  to  form  a  submarine  garden  of  unpa- 
ralleled magnificence.  "  Where  is  the  paradise  of 
flowers,"  exclaims  a  German  naturalist,  "  that  can 
rival  in  variety  and  beauty  these  living  wonders  of 
the  ocean  ?" 

And  these  gardens  of  Nereus,  through  the  intro- 
duction of  the  aquarium,  may  be  brought  into  our 
homes.  The  brilliant  and  sparkling  hues  of  the 
marine  creatures  will  prove  equally  attractive  in 
the  tiny  vase  and  in  the  boundless  ocean,  the  more 
so  as  we  may  be  fettered  to  bricks  and  mortar,  shut 
in  our  town  prison,  or  hemmed  round  by  stern 
duties  which  we  cannot  elude  ;  so  the  deep  sea  may 
roar  a  bluff  greeting,  but  we  hear  it  not !  Let  us 
consider  how  one  of  these  mimic  oceans  may  be 
formed.  We  procure  a  tank  of  plate  glass,  and 
cover  its  slate  bottom  with  a  layer  of  sand  from 
the  sea-beach,  or  even  well-washed  river  sand.  But 
*  A  Naturalist's  Rambles  on  the  Devonshire  Coast. 


perhaps  the  best  of  all  materials  for  forming  a  bot- 
tom are  broken  granite  and  coarse  shingle.  Hock- 
work  must  now  be  introduced,  so  as  to  provide 
shady  nooks  for  those  delicate  creatures  that  shun 
the  light  or  are  of  a  retiring  disposition.  We  may 
fashion  the  rock-work  into  a  rude  arch,  or  three 
large  pieces  of  stone  may  be  built  up  in  the  form  of 
a  table  or  druidical  cromlech. 

The  aquarium  having  been  filled  with  sea-water 
is  now  ready  for  stocking  with  marine  plants  and 
animals.  The  plants  render  the  water  fit  for  the 
maintenance  of  animal  life,  while  the  animals  check 
the  too  rapid  increase  of  vegetation.  Thus,  the 
success  of  our  aquarium  will  depend  upon  the  proper 
balance  of  animal  and  vegetable  life.  We  select 
the  green  and  red  weeds,  as  the  brown  and  olive 
are  apt  to  discolour  the  water.  Sea-plants  have  no 
roots,  but  adhere  by  minute  discs  to  the  surface  of 
the  rock ;  a  piece  of  stone  has  accordingly  to  be 
knocked  off  with  each  plant,  in  order  that  it  may 
be  removed  to  our  glass  tank. 

Some  days  should  be  allowed  to  elapse  before  the 
animals  are  introduced,  so  that  the  plants  may  have 
time  to  impregnate  the  water  with  their  minute 
spores.  Among  the  finny  inhabitants  of  the  mer- 
maid's home  the  little  mullets  rank  first,  then  the 
blennies  and  gobies,  but  many  other  kinds  of  fish 
may  find  a  place  in  our  mimic  ocean.  The  common 
periwinkle  is  essential  to  the  aquarium,  as  it  fulfils 
the  duties  of  a  scavenger,  and  carefully  removes  the 


green  film  that  sometimes  forms  upon  the  glass. 
The  star-fishes,  crabs,  serpulse,  and  the  prawns 
are  favourites  with  aquarian  naturalists  ;  but  the 
lovely  sea-anemones  are  the  crowning  glories  of  the 
glass  tank.  We  must  carefully  remove  all  dead 
plants  and  animals  from  our  aquarium.  It  is  in* 
dispensable  that  there  should  be  a  free  access  of 
light,  but  we  must  not  expose  our  tank  to  the  full 
glare  of  the  sun's  rays,  or  the  water  will  become 
heated,  and  its  delicate  inhabitants  will  surely  die. 
These  tanks  require  constant  attention,  but  their 
beauty  will  more  than  repay  its  for  any  amount  of 
trouble.  They  have  been  beautifully  described  as 
"  flower  gardens  which  never  wither,  fairy  lakes  of 
perpetual  calm,  which  no  storm  blackens." 

(i  There  is  a  difference  between  a  grub  and  butterfly  ;  yet 
Your  butterfly  was  a  grub." — Coriolanus. 

ONCE  upon  a  time  an  aged  butterfly,  with  wings  all 
crumpled  and  torn,  crawled  up  the  stem  of  a  willow, 
and  seated  himself  on  the  nearest  leaf. 

"My  last  moments  are  drawing  near,"  said  he,  "but 
I  do  not  repine,  for  life  has  become  a  burden  to  me. 
My  wings  are  useless,  my  joints  stiff  and  rheumatic, 
and  my  antennae  have  long  since  lost  their  exquisite 
sensibility.  It  is  quite  evident  that  my  flying  days 
are  over,  but  so  much  happiness  has  fallen  to  my 
share,  that  I  have  no  right  to  complain."  The  but- 
terfly had  scarcely  finished  this  soliloquy,  when  a 
large  tiger-moth  alighted  on  a  leaf  close  by. 

"  Ah,  my  friend  !"  exclaimed  the  moth,  "  I  am 
truly  glad  to  see  you ;  I  have  not  many  hours  to  live, 
and  I  wish  to  make  you  my  executor.  Do  not 
start,  my  friend,  I  am  old  and  decrepit,  and  you 
shall  see  me  meet  death  with  becoming  resigna- 

The    butterfly  smiled   sadly,  and    declined   the 


proffered  executorsMp,  explaining  to  the  venerable 
tiger-moth  that  he  himself  was  about  to  die. 

Now,  by  one  of  those  wonderful  coincidences 
peculiar  to  fairy  tales,  a  dragon-fly,  a  gnat,  and  two 
small  flies,  all  bowed  down  by  weight  of  years, 
settled  in  the  neighbourhood  of  the  two  lepidoptera.* 
After  much  mutual  condolence,  the  six  insects 
began  to  quarrel  about  their  respective  adventures, 
each  bragging  that  he  had  seen  far  more  wonderful 
things  than  had  any  of  his  companions.  The 
dragon-fly  became  very  much  excited,  and  though 
very  feeble,  he  clashed  his  mandibles  together  in  a 
manner  that  filled  the  smaller  insects  with  dismay. 
The  butterfly,  who  was  an  insect  of  a  very  superior 
turn  of  mind,  put  an  end  to  this  disagreeable  scene. 

"  My  friends,"  he  exclaimed,  in  a  solemn  voice, 
"  is  it  wise  to  waste  the  few  short  hours  that  remain 
to  us  in  vain  discussion  ?  Would  it  not  be  more 
becoming  in  old  insects  like  us  to  sit  down  quietly, 
and  relate  our  adventures  without  quarrelling  1 
Depend  upon  it,  Nature  has  not  formed  us  dif- 
ferently, and  endowed  us  with  distinct  faculties,  for 
a  mere  freak,  but  because  we  may  be  better  fitted 
to  enjoy  the  sweets  of  life  in  our  separate  spheres. 
Consider,  my  dear  dragon,  what  pitiable  objects  you 
and  I  would  be  were  we  to  exchange  wings ! 
How  could  you  support  your  long  body  with  my 
painted  wings,  and  how  could  I  work  your  gauzy 

*  The  order  Lepidoptera,  or  scaly  wings,  includes  butter- 
flies and  moths. 


pinions  with  my  feeble  muscles  1  Instead  of  boast- 
ing about  your  superior  strength  and  prowess,  you 
ought  to  accept  your  gifts  with  a  humble  thankful- 
ness, as  you  must  be  aware  that  you  are  'far  inferior 
in  point  of  intellect  to  the  sober  bee,  or  the  tiny 

"  Do  not  be  too  hard  upon  me,  Mr.  Butterfly," 
said  the  great  insect ;  "  I  own  myself  in  the  wrong, 
and  am  quite  willing  to  adopt  any  suggestion  you 
may  make  with  regard  to  the  manner  of  passing 
our  last  hours."  The  two  little  flies  on  hearing 
their  dreaded  enemy  speak  so  rationally,  instantly 
recovered  their  self-possession,  and  the  gnat  actually 
ventured  within  the  reach  of  his  formidable  man- 

"  Well,  then,"  said  the  butterfly,  "  let  each  relate 
his  history  in  as  few  words  as  possible,  describing 
the  metamorphoses  he  has  undergone,  and  the  won- 
derful things  that  have  fallen  within  the  sphere  of 
his  observation." 

This  proposition  was  received  with  unanimous 
approbation,  and  it  was  speedily  determined  that 
the  butterfly  should  tell  the  first  story. 

We  will  now  lay  before  the  reader  a  true  report 
of  the  conversation  that  ensued,  adding  such  ex- 
planatory remarks  as  may  be  necessary  to  make  the 
speeches  of  the  insects  intelligible. 

"  I  am  generally  known  as  the  cabbage-butterfly," 
said  the  first  speaker,  "  and  although  my  wings  are 
now  in  a  very  dilapidated  condition,  I  think  you 


must  admit  that  the  dark  spots  upon  the  white 
ground  produce  a  very  pretty  effect.  I  need  not 
tell  you  that  I  originally  came  from  an  egg,  which 
my  maternal  parent,  guided  by  an  unerring  instinct, 
had  deposited  upon  a  leaf  capable  of  affording  me 
proper  and  sufficient  nourishment  in  my  caterpillar 
state.  And  a  beautiful  little  egg  it  was,  shaped  like 
a  flask,  marked  with  fifteen  ribs,  converging  to- 
wards the  smaller  end,  and  having  a  delicate  yellow 

"  I  was  a  very  little  fellow  when  I  made  my 
escape  from  the  egg,  but  having  a  tremendous  appe- 
tite I  grew  rapidly,  and  soon  became  a  handsome 
caterpillar.  Nature  had  furnished  me  with  sixteen 
feet,  and  had  dressed  me  in  a  coat  of  bluish  grey, 
having  a  bright  yellow  line  down  the  back,  and 
another  on  each  side.  I  am  fairly  shocked  when 
I  think  of  my  voracity,  for  I  frequently  devoured 
double  my  own  weight  of  cabbage  in  twenty-four 
hours.  At  length,  when  I  had  attained  my  full  size, 
I  felt  that  I  was  about  to  undergo  a  wonderful  meta- 
morphosis ;  accordingly  I  stole  away  from  the  plant 
on  which  I  had  been  feeding,  and  found  a  secluded 
corner  where  I  could  perform  unmolested  the 
tedious  and  painful  operation  of  wriggling  out  of 
my  skin. 

"  Having  thrown  off  my  grey  coat,  and  with  it  my 
sixteen  legs,  I  became  a  chrysalis*  a  mere  mummy, 

*  A  Greek  term,  signifying  golden,  applied  to  pupae  on  ac- 
count of  the  golden  lustre  which  they  sometimes  exhibit. 


in  fact,  having  neither  limbs,  eyes,  nor  mouth.  My 
second  metamorphosis  was  even  more  extraordinary 
than  this.  I  broke  through  the  mummy  cloth  as 
a  perfect  insect.  My  wings  were  at  first  moist  and 
shrunken,  but  in  an  hour  or  so  they  spread  out  to 
their  full  extent.  I  will  not  attempt  to  describe 
the  rapture  which  I  experienced  in  my  first  flight 
through  the  air.  My  former  life  seemed  to  be  an 
ugly  dream  ;  and  as  I  flew  from  flower  to  flower, 
sipping  ambrosial  sweets,  I  could  hardly  realize 
the  fact  that  I  had  once  been  a  crawling  caterpillar, 
with  an  insatiable  craving  for  cabbage.  The 
longest  life  must  have  an  end  ;  and  you  now  see 
me  patiently  awaiting  death  or  some  new  meta- 
morphosis of  which  my  instinct  gives  me  no 

The  reader  will  doubtless  be  astonished  to  hear 
that  the  butterfly  exists  in  the  caterpillar,  and  has 
been  detected  in  it  by  expert  anatomists.  "  In 
order,"  says  Swammerdam,  "to  discover  plainly 
that  a  butterfly  is  enclosed  and  hidden  in  the  skin 
of  the  caterpillar,  the  following  operation  must  be 
performed.  One  must  kill  a  full-grown  caterpillar, 
tie  a  thread  to  its  body,  and  dip  it  for  a  minute 
or  two  into  boiling  water.  The  oxiter  skin  will, 
after  this,  easily  separate,  because  the  fluids  be- 
tween the  two  skins  are  by  this  means  rare- 
fied and  dilated,  and  therefore  they  break  and 
detach  both  the  vessels  and  the  fibres  whei'ewith 
they  were  united  together.  By  this  means  the 


outer  skin  of  the  caterpillar,  being  separated,  may- 
be easily  drawn  off  from  the  butterfly  which  is  con- 
tained and  folded  up  in  it.  This  done,  it  is  clearly 
and  distinctly  seen  that,  within  this  skin  of  the  cater- 
pillar, a  perfect  and  real  bxitterfly  was  hidden,  and 
therefore  the  skin  of  the  caterpillar  must  be  con- 
sidered only  as  an  outer  garment,  containing  in  it 
parts  belonging  to  the  nature  of  a  butterfly,  which 
have  grown  under  its  defence  by  slow  degrees,  in 
like  manner  as  other  sensitive  bodies  increase  by 

"  But  as  theselimbs  of  the  biitterfly  which  lieunder 
the  skin  of  a  caterpillar  cannot  without  great  diffi- 
culty be  discovered,  unless  by  a  person  accustomed  to 
such  experiments — because  they  are  then  very  soft, 
tender,  and  small,  and  are,  moreover,  complicated  or 
folded  together,  and  enclosed  in  some  membranous 
covering  —  it  is  therefore  necessary  to  defer  the 
operation  just  now  proposed  until  the  several 
parts  of  the  butterfly  become  somewhat  more  con- 
spicuous than  at  first,  and  are  more  increased  and 
swelled  under  the  skin  by  the  force  of  the  intruded 
blood  and  aqueous  humour.  This  is  known  to  be 
the  case  when  the  caterpillar  ceases  to  eat,  and  its 
skin  on  each  side  of  the  thorax,  near  under  the 
head,  is  then  observed  to  be  more  and  more  elevated 
by  the  increasing  and  swelling  limbs,  and  shows 
the  appearance  of  two  pairs  of  prominent  tubercles." 
Before  this  beautiful  discovery  was  made  the  wildest 
theories  were  propounded  to  explain  insect  meta- 


When  the  butterfly  had  finished  his  story,  the 
tiger-moth  addressed  his  friends  in  the  following 
manner : — "  I  fear  that  my  history  will  afford  you 
but  little  interest,  as  I  have  undergone  a  series  of 
changes  of  precisely  the  same  character  as  those 
which  have  just  been  described  by  our  friend.  In 
my  youthful  days  I  was  quite  as  voracious  as  the 
butterfly,  but  my  favourite  food  was  the  nettle. 
My  body  was  covered  with  long  hairs  of  a  dark- 
brown  colour.  This  woolly  coat  was  of  immense 
service  to  me ;  for  besides  keeping  me  warm,  it  saved 
me  many  a  bruise  by  bi-eaking  my  fall  when  I  tum- 
bled off  a  leaf  or  branch.  Before  changing  into  a 
chrysalis,  I  spun  for  myself  a  snug  little  silken 
hammock,  in  which  I  might  repose  in  peace  until 
my  final  metamorphosis  into  a  moth.  There,  I 
have  finished  my  brief  narrative,  and  am  now  long- 
ing to  hear  the  dragon-fly's  story,  as  I  suspect  it 
will  be  very  wonderful." 

"  My  early  days,"  said  the  dragon-fly,  "  were 
spent  in  the  water.  I  was  then  furnished  with  six 
feet,  but  I  did  not  use  them  for  walking  so  much  as 
for  capturing  my  prey.  I  moved  through  the  water 
by  means  of  a  wonderful  hydraulic  engine,  which 
nature  had  given  me.  With  this  engine  I  was  able 
to  eject  a  stream  of  water  to  the  distance  of  several 
inches ;  and  this  jet  propelled  me  through  the  water, 
in  consequence  of  its  being  resisted  by  the  station- 
ary mass  of  the  fluid  behind.  I  was  the  terror  of 
all  the  inhabitants  of  the  pond,  for  T  was  dreadfully 
L  2 


rapacious,  devouring  every  living  thing  that  came 
within  my  reach.  In  surprising  my  prey,  I  ap- 
proached it  very  stealthily,  and  pounced  upon  it 
suddenly.  I  was  so  artful,  that  insects,  and  even 
small  fishes,  found  it  difficult  to  elude  my  attacks. 

"  My  first  metamorphosis  was  inconsiderable,  as 
my  appearance  underwent  very  little  alteration,  and 
I  still  retained  my  six  legs,  and  had  the  same  car- 
nivorous propensities  as  formerly.  At  length  I  felt 
that  the  term  of  my  aquatic  existence  had  expired, 
and  I  therefore  crawled  up  the  stem  of  a  water- 
plant  into  the  air.  Having  selected  a  dry  spot,  I 
pushed  my  sharp  claws  into  the  soft  stem,  and 
awaited  my  final  transformation.  By  the  swelling 
of  the  upper  part  of  my  body,  the  outer  skin  was 
greatly  distended,  and  was  eventually  rent  asunder 
on  the  back  of  the  head  and  shoulders.  Through 
this  opening  I  escaped  as  a  perfect  fly,  leaving  the 
empty  slough  fixed  to  the  aquatic  plant.  Old  age 
has  now  come  upon  me,  and  I  require  no  further 
nourishment;  but  I  must  confess  that  I  never  lost 
my  rapacious  instincts.  Instead  of  seeking  an 
innocent  nutriment  in  the  pulp  of  fruits,  or  the 
nectar  of  flowers,  I  hovered  in  the  air  only  to  pounce 
upon  other  insects  and  crush  them  with  my  powerful 
mandibles.  I  have  exterminated  innumerable  gnats 
and  flies  in  my  latter  days,  and  have  even  caused 
the  death  of  several  moths  and  butterflies." 

This  confession  so  alarmed  the  gnat,  that  he  flew 
at  once  to  another  leaf,  so  as  to  be  at  a  safe  distance 


from  the  splendid  blue  monster,  for  whom  he  had 
hitherto  entertained  so  little  fear.  "  Do  not  run 
away!"  exclaimed  the  dragon-fly,  in  a  very  jocular 
tone.  "  I  shall  not  eat  you  until  I  have  heard  your 
story,  provided  you  sit  still  j  but  if  you  attempt  to 
leave  this  tree,  I  shall  be  very  much  offended,  and 
will  not  answer  for  the  consequences." 

"  O,  sir  !"  exclaimed  the  gnat,  "  how  could  you 
suppose  that  I  should  run  away  from  you,  the 
handsomest,  the  best,  and  the  most  magnanimous 
insect  that  ever  breathed  ?  I  moved  from  the  leaf 
upon  which  you  are  sitting,  because  I  felt  my  own 
un worthiness  so  keenly,  and  feared  that  my  presence 
might  cause  you  some  uneasiness.  If  you  would 
like  to  hear  the  story  of  my  life,  I  shall  be  most 
proud  to  relate  it  to  you,  and  to  the  other  illus- 
trious insects  that  are  here  assembled. 

"  I  was  originally  produced  from  a  tiny  egg, 
shaped  like  a  bottle.  My  mother  knew  that  her 
offspring  would  pass  the  greater  portion  of  their 
time  in  water,  and  she  therefore  deposited  her  eggs 
upon  the  surface  of  a  pond.  Now,  as  each  egg  was 
heavy  enough  to  sink  if  dropped  into  water,  she 
glued  some  three  hundred  of  them  together  into  the 
form  of  a  boat,  which  floated  so  safely  that  the  most 
violent  agitation  of  the  water  could  not  sink  it ; 
and,  what  was  still  more  extraordinary,  it  never 
became  filled  with  water,  even  though  exposed  to 
the  heavy  rains.  When  hatched,  I  took  the  form 
of  a  minute,  whitish,  semi-transparent  grub.  I 


usually  swam  near  the  surface  of  the  water,  with 
my  head  downwards  and  my  tail  in  the  air — for  my 
breathing  organs  were  situated  in  the  tail,  and  not 
along  the  sides,  as  in  caterpillars.  In  course  of  time 
I  underwent  a  semi-transformation,  like  that  of  our 
noble  friend  the  dragon,  and  ten  days  after  I  broke 
through  the  skin  that  covered  me,  and  winged  my 
way  through  the  air." 

The  reader  would  probably  like  to  hear  how  the 
gnat  escapes  from  its  envelope,  without  wetting  its 
wings.  The  most  important,  and  indeed  indispen- 
sable part  of  the  mechanism,  is  the  maintaining  of 
its  upright  position  while  extricating  itself  from  the 
skin.  The  envelope,  as  it  is  thrown  off,  forms  a 
life -boat,  and  supports  the  gnat  until  it  gets  its 
wings  set  at  liberty  and  trimmed  for  flight.  The 
body  of  the  insect  serves  this  little  boat  for  a  mast. 
"  When  the  naturalist,"  says  Reaumur,  "  observes 
how  deep  the  prow  of  the  tiny  boat  dips  into  the 
water,  he  becomes  anxious  for  the  fate  of  the  little 
mariner,  particularly  if  a  breeze  ripple  the  surface, 
for  the  least  agitation  of  the  air  will  waft  it  rapidly 
along,  since  its  body  performs  the  duty  of  a  sail  as 
well  as  of  a  mast ;  but  as  it  bears  a  much  greater 
proportion  to  the  little  bark  than  the  largest  sail 
does  to  a  ship,  it  appears  in  great  danger  of  being 
upset,  and  once  laid  on  its  side  all  is  over.  I  have 
sometimes  seen  the  surface  of  the  water  covered 
with  the  bodies  of  gnats  which  had  perished  in  this 
way  ;  but  for  the  most  part  all  terminates  favour- 


ably,  and  the  danger  is  instantly  over."  When  the 
gnat  has  extricated  all  but  the  tail,  it  stretches  out 
its  two  fore-legs,  and  then  the  middle  pair,  bending 
them  down  to  feel  for  the  water,  upon  which  it  is 
able  to  walk  as  upon  dry  land,  the  only  aquatic 
faculty  which  it  retains  after  having  winged  its  way 
above  the  element  where  it  spent  the  first  stages  of 
its  existence. 

The  larger  of  the  two  flies  came  forward  as  soon 
as  the  gnat  had  done  speaking,  and  gracefully  waving 
his  antennae,  addressed  the  assembled  insects  as  fol- 
lows : — "  I  am  a  water-fly,  and,  like  the  last  two 
speakers,  I  spent  my  youth  at  the  bottom  of  a  pond. 
Having  a  very  soft  body,  which  required  some  pro- 
tection from  the  rapacity  of  fishes  and  carnivorous 
insects,  I  enclosed  myself  in  a  case  formed  of  bits  of 
straw  and  wood,  pebbles,  and  tiny  shells  bound 
together  by  silken  threads,  which  I  spun  from  my 
mouth.  While  I  remained  in  the  grub  state,  this 
case  afforded  me  sufficient  protection  ;  but  as  soon 
as  I  felt  a  change  approaching  which  I  knew  would 
render  me  helpless  and  inactive,  I  thought  it  advi- 
sable to  contrive  additional  security.  I  therefore 
wove  a  silken  grating  at  the  entrance  of  my  little 
gallery.  This  grating  was  marvellously  strong,  for 
I  crossed  and  recrossed  the  threads  until  a  thickish 
circular  plate  of  brown  silk  was  formed,  which 
became  as  hard  as  gum.  Of  course  I  left  a  number 
of  openings  in  this  plate,  for  the  purpose  of  breath- 
ing. In  this  case  I  reposed  in  peace  until  just  before 


my  final  metamorphosis,  when  I  gnawed  my  way 
through  the  grating  with  a  pair  of  mandibles  spe- 
cially provided  for  that  one  object.  I  then  swam 
to  the  surface,  and  underwent  my  change  into  a 
perfect  insect." 

"  It  is  my  turn  now,"  said  the  other  fly,  a  tiny 
creature  with  a  black  body  and  yellow  legs ;  "  and 
although  I  am  so  small,  I  think  I  may  safely  say  that 
I  have  led  a  stranger  life  than  any  of  you.  I  did  not 
pass  my  time,  when  in  my  caterpillar  state,  in  looking 
out  for  food;  yet  I  lived  on  the  fat  of  the  land.  I 
am  the  dreaded  ichneumon-fly,  and  the  egg  from 
which  I  was  produced  was  deposited  by  my  mother 
in  the  soft  body  of  a  cabbage-caterpillar,  the  brother 
probably  of  our  friend  here  with  the  ragged  wings. 
My  kind  parent  settled  upon  the  caterpillar's  back, 
and  pierced  the  skin  in  about  thirty  places,  deposit- 
ing an  egg  in  each  wound.  When  we  were  all 
hatched,  we  set  to  work  devouring  the  fatty  por- 
tions of  the  caterpillar,  who  continued  to  eat  as 
usual,  though  his  food  did  not  afford  him  much 
nourishment.  When  full  grown,  we  eat  our  way 
through  the  skin  of  the  unfortunate  cabbage-feeder, 
and  immediately  spun  for  ourselves  a  number  of 
little  silken  cocoons  of  a  bright  yellow  colour,  in 
which  to  pass  the  winter.  In  one  of  these  little 
cocoons  I  underwent  my  transformations,  and 
when  I  escaped  I  had  the  form  which  you  now 

Such,  reader,  is  the  subject  of  a  conversation 


which  took  place,  or  might  have  taken  place,  on 
the  leaves  of  the  willow,  between  six  of  our  com- 
monest insects.  The  metamorphoses  of  insects  surely 
deserve  a  place  in  the  fairy  tales  of  Science,  as 
they  are  far  more  wonderful,  because  true,  than  any 
of  the  metamorphoses  that  we  read  of  in  the  fairy 
tales  of  Greece  and  Home. 


"  Fire  burn,  and  cauldron  bubble  !" — Macbeth. 

THE  vapour  that  escapes  from  the  spout  of  an  ordi- 
nary tea-kettle,  is  a  much  more  wonderful  emana- 
tion than  any  of  those  flimsy  spirits  which  the  wierd 
sisters  summoned  from  their  magic  cauldron.  Those 
deluded  old  ladies,  who  wasted  so  much  time  in 
collecting  disgusting  ingredients  for  their  infernal 
broth,  in  dancing  wildly  around  their  cooking  uten- 
sils, and  in  break  ing-in  and  training  broomsticks, 
have  happily  disappeared  from  the  face  of  this  beau- 
tiful earth,  As  we  cannot  look  into  their  magic 
cauldron,  let  us  peep  into  the  homely  kettle. 

Science  has  revealed  so  many  beautiful  truths 
concerning  boiling  water,  that  we  deem  it  advisable 
to  devote  an  entire  chapter  to  their  consideration. 
The  reader  must  not  think  that  we  have  chosen  a 
trivial  subject.  It  has  been  well  said,  that  there  is 
no  great  and  no  small  in  nature,  and  that  the  force 
which  shapes  the  world  gives  form  to  the  dewdrop. 
To  this  remark  we  may  add  a  similar  one — namely, 
that  some  of  the  grandest  phenomena  in  nature  are 


represented  on  a  small  scale  in  a  kettle  of  boiling 

"  Mary,  bring  the  kettle !" 

Heat,  by  entering  bodies,  expands  them  through 
a  range  which  includes,  as  three  successive  stages, 
the  forms  of  solid,  liquid,  and  air,  or  gas ;  becoming 
thus  in  nature  the  grand  antagonist  and  modifier 
of  that  attraction  which  holds  corporeal  particles 
together,  and  which,  if  acting  alone,  would  reduce 
the  whole  material  universe  to  one  solid,  lifeless 

The  influence  of  heat  on  the  dimensions  of  mate- 
rial substances  affords  a  convenient  method  of 
estimating  the  relative  quantity  of  heat  which  will 
produce  a  given  effect ;  for  since  it  appears  that  a 
certain  increase  of  temperature  will  invariably  be 
accompanied  by  a  certain  degree  of  expansion  of 
bulk,  it  follows  that,  if  we  can  estimate  the  degree 
of  expansion  in  any  given  case,  we  may  thence  infer 
the  amount  of  temperature.  Upon  this  principle 
depends  the  utility  of  those  philosophical  instru- 
ments called  thermometers,  or  heat -measures.  As 
we  shall  frequently  have  to  refer  to  the  indications 
of  the  thermometer,  we  will  describe  the  construc- 
tion of  this  beautiful  little  instrument. 

The  mercurial  thermometer  consists  essentially  of 
a  fine  glass  tube  with  a  bulb  at  one  extremity,  and 
which,  having  been  filled  with  hot  mercury  or 
quicksilver,  introduced  through  the  open  extremity, 
has  been  hermetically  sealed  while  full,  so  that  no 


air  can  possibly  enter.  As  the  tube  and  mercury 
in  it  gradually  cool,  the  enclosed  fluid  contracts 
and  consequently  sinks,  leaving  above  it  a  vacant 
space  or  vacuum,  through  which  it  may  again  ex- 
pand on  the  application  of  heat. 

To  such  a  tube  it  is  necessary  to  add  a  scale, 
showing  at  what  height  the  mercury  will  stand  at 
any  given  temperature, — for  a  tube  of  mercury 
without  a  scale  would  be  just  as  useless  as  a  balance 
without  weights.  Now,  to  form  a  scale  that  shall 
agree  with  other  scales  we  must  find  two  fixed 
points,  and  then  divide  the  intervening  space  into 
a  given  number  of  equal  parts,  or  degrees.  These 
fixed  points  are  the  temperatures  of  melting  snow 
or  ice,  called  the  freezing-point,  and  of  pure  boiling 
water,  named  the  boiling-point.  The  first  is  found 
by  plunging  the  instrument  into  melting  ice,  and 
then,  after  the  temperature  of  the  bath  is  attained, 
marking  the  position  of  the  mercury  upon  the 
tube ;  it  is  now  placed  in  a  deep  metallic  vessel 
nearly  filled  with  water,  which  is  heated  until 
rapid  ebullition  ensues,  and  in  this  manner  the 
position  of  the  boiling-point  is  ascertained.  Fah- 
renheit's scale  being  the  standard  generally  adopted 
in  England,  it  is  usual  to  divide  the  space  between 
the  two  points  into  180  degrees,  the  freezing-point 
being  marked  32°,  and  the  boiling-point  112°.  In 
the  Centigrade  thermometer,  which  is  used  on  the 
Continent,  the  space  is  divided  into  100  equal 
parts,  the  two  points  being  marked  respectively  0° 


and  100°.  The  reader  will  understand  that  a 
degree  of  heat  is  a  mere  arbitrary  division,  and  that 
212°  Fahr.  and  100°  Cent,  indicate  the  same  tem- 
perature. We  shall  adopt  the  unphilosophical  but 
convenient  scale  of  Fahrenheit  throughout  this 

No  indication  is  afforded  by  the  thermometer 
of  the  absolute  quantity  of  heat  contained  in  any 
substance,  but  merely  of  the  amount  of  free  or 
sensible  heat  capable  of  producing  a  certain  degree 
of  expansion  in  a  column  of  mercury.  If  a  quan- 
tity of  ice,  at  the  temperature  of  zero,  or  0°,  be 
placed  in  a  warm  room,  it  will  immediately  begin 
to  melt,  and  a  thermometer  plunged  into  it  will 
soon  indicate  32°,  though  at  first  the  column  of 
mercury  stood  at  zero.  But,  strange  to  say,  the 
mercury  will  remain  stationary  at  the  freezing-point 
until  the  whole  of  the  ice  has  passed  into  the  liquid 
form.  Thus  we  see  that  a  large  quantity  of  heat  is 
absorbed  by  the  ice  in  the  act  of  thawing,  so  as  to  be 
no  longer  appreciable  by  the  thermometer. 

Again,  if  an  open  vessel  containing  ice-cold  water 
be  placed  upon  a  fii'e,  the  temperature  of  the  liquid 
will  rapidly  rise  to  212°,  but  at  this  point  it  will 
remain  stationary  until  the  whole  of  the  water  is 
converted  into  steam.  The  heat  thus  lost  or  ab- 
sorbed during  liquefaction  and  vaporization  is  called 
hidden  or  latent  heat,  in  contradistinction  to  the 
heat  of  temperature. 

But  we  must  not  forget  our  kettle.     The  stream 


of  vapour  now  issuing  from  the  spout  reminds  us  of 
the  Arabian  fable  of  the  genie,  who  escaped  from  the 
fisherman's  bottle  in  the  form  of  a  column  of  smoke. 
But  the  genie  of  the  tea-kettle  is  infinitely  more 
powerful  than  the  genie  of  the  bottle,  who  was,  more- 
over, a  stupid,  blustering  fellow,  quite  unlike  our 
faithful  servant,  Steam.  Let  us  see  how  our  mighty 
genie  may  be  evoked  ;  in  other  words,  let  us  ascer- 
tain the  conditions  under  which  vaporization  takes 
place.  Vapours,  of  which  steam  is  the  most  familiar 
to  us,  are  light,  expansible,  and  generally  invisible 
gases,  resembling  air  completely  in  their  mechanical 
properties  while  they  exist,  but  subject  to  be  con- 
densed into  liquids  or  solids  by  cold.  Steam  is 
perfectly  invisible ;  but  as  soon  as  it  comes  into 
contact  with  the  cold  air,  it  is  condensed  into 
a  white  cloud,  which  consists  of  minute  liquid 

When  converted  into  steam,  water  undergoes  a 
great  expansion,  a  cubic  inch  becoming  under  ordi- 
nary circumstances  a  cubic  foot  of  steam  ;  or,  to  be 
exact,  one  cubic  inch  of  water  expands,  when  suffi- 
ciently heated,  into  1694  cubic  inches  of  steam. 
We  have  already  shown  that  this  change,  like  the 
liquefaction  of  solids,  is  effected  by  the  addition  of 
heat  to  the  water.  But  a  much  larger  quantity  of 
heat  enters  into  vapours  than  into  liquids — into 
steam  than  into  water.  If  over  a  steady  fire  a 
certain  quantity  of  ice-cold  water  requires  one  hour 
to  bring  it  to  the  boiling  point,  it  will  require  a 


continuance  of  the  same  heat  for  five  hours  more  to 
boil  it  off  entirely.  Yet  liquids  do  not  become 
hotter  after  they  begin  to  boil,  however  long  or  with 
whatever  violence  the  boiling  is  continued.  This 
fact  is  of  importance  in  domestic  economy,  particu- 
larly in  cookery,  and  attention  to  it  would  save 
much  fuel.  Soups  made  to  boil  in  a  gentle  way  by 
the  application  of  a  moderate  heat,  are  just  as  hot 
as  when  they  are  made  to  boil  on  a  strong  fire  with 
the  greatest  violence.  Again,  when  water  in  a 
copper  is  once  brought  to  the  boiling  point,  the  fire 
may  be  reduced,  as  having  no  further  effect  in  rais- 
ing its  temperature.* 

If  a  thermometer  be  plunged  into  the  steam  that 
fills  the  upper  part  of  the  kettle,  it  will  indicate 
212°.  The  steam  is  thus  found  to  be  no  hotter  than 
the  water  itself.  What  then  becomes  of  all  the 
heat  that  passes  into  the  kettle,  since  it  is  neither 
discovered  in  the  water  nor  in  the  steam  1  It  be- 
comes latent — that  is  to  say,  it  enters  into  the  water 
and  converts  it  into  steam  without  raising  its  tem- 
perature. As  much  heat  disappears  in  the  vaporiza- 
tion of  a  single  pint  of  water  as  would  suffice  to 
raise  the  temperature  of  1000  pints  by  one  degree ! 
But  the  reader  will  be  able  to  form  a  more  adequate 
conception  of  the  latent  heat  of  steam,  from  the  fact 
that  one  gallon  of  water  converted  into  steam  will, 
by  condensation,  raise  five  gallons  and  a  half  of  ice- 
cold  water  to  the  boiling  point ! 

*  Professor  Graham. 


Could  we  see  through  the  sides  of  the  kettle  we 
should  observe  so  many  strange  movements  in  the 
liquid  that  we  might  easily  persuade  cm-selves  that 
we  were  peering  into  some  magic  cauldron.  By 
substituting  a  thin  glass  flask  for  the  kettle,  the 
whole  process  of  boiling  may  be  seen  to  perfection. 
On  gradually  heating  water  in  such  a  vessel,  we 
first  observe  the  formation  of  tiny  air-bubbles,  which 
dart  through  the  liquid  with  marvellous  rapidity. 
As  the  temperature  increases  these  "  beaded  bub- 
bles winking  at  the  brim"  give  place  to  much 
larger  bubbles,  which  are  formed  at  the  bottom  of 
the  vessel,  and  which  rise  a  little  way  in  the  liquid, 
and  then  contract  and  disappear  in  a  most  myste- 
rious manner,  producing  a  hissing  or  simmering 
sound.  But  as  the  heating  goes  on,  these  bubbles, 
which  consist  of  steam,  rise  higher  and  higher  in 
the  liquid,  till  at  last  they  reach  the  surface  and 
escape,  producing  a  bubbling  agitation,  or  the  pheno- 
mena of  ebullition.  It  may  now  be  remarked  that 
steam  itself  is  invisible,  as  the  upper  part  of  the  flask 
appears  quite  empty  ;  but  when  it  escapes  into  the 
cold  air  it  is  condensed  into  a  white  cloud  of  minute 
drops  of  water. 

It  was  first  remarked  by  Gay-Lussac,  an  illus- 
trious French  chemist,  that  liquids  are  converted 
more  easily  into  vapour  when  in  contact  with 
angular  and  uneven  surfaces,  than  when  the  sur- 
faces which  they  touch  are  smooth  and  polished. 
He  also  remarked  that  water  boils  at  a  temperature 


two  degrees  higher  in  glass  than  in  metal ;  so  that 
if  into  water  in  a  glass  flask  which  has  ceased  to 
boil,  a  twisted  piece  of  cold  iron  wire  be  dropped, 
the  boiling  is  instantly  resumed. 

Solid  bodies  having  different  temperatures  will,  if 
kept  in  contact,  gradually  change  until  they  all 
acquire  the  same  temperature.  But  this  diffusion 
does  not  take  place  instantaneously,  or  there  would 
be  no  such  thing  as  difference  of  temperature.  The 
rapidity  with  which  heat  is  conducted  varies  in  dif- 
ferent substances  ;  for  example,  if  we  place  a  silver 
spoon  and  a  wooden  one  in  boiling  water,  the  handle 
of  the  former  will  become  too  hot  to  be  held  before 
that  of  the  wooden  one  is  sensibly  warmed.  Silver 
is,  therefore,  a  good  conductor  and  wood  a  bad  con- 
ductor of  heat. 

Liquids  conduct  heat  very  slowly  and  imperfectly. 
If  mercury  be  poured  into  a  jar,  and  boiling  water 
be  poured  over  it,  the  metallic  fluid  will  receive 
heat  but  slowly  from  the  water.  A  thermometer 
let  down  a  few  feet  below  the  surface  of  a  pond  or  of 
the  sea,  would,  on  being  drawn  up,  indicate  a  lower 
temperature  than  that  of  the  surface  water  ;  for  the 
latter,  heated  by  the  rays  of  the  sun,  communicates 
little  or  no  heat  to  the  water  below.  Indeed,  it  may 
be  questioned  whether  water  has  any  conducting 

It  may  be  reasonably  inquired  how  it  happens 
that  water  is  made  to  boil  so  readily  by  the  appli- 
cation of  heat.  A  little  consideration  will  show 


that  the  effect,  in  a  great  measure,  depends  on  the 
manner  in  which  the  liquid  is  heated,  by  placing  it 
above   the  source   of  heat.     If  we   require  boiling 
water  we  must  place  the  kettle  on  the  fire,  and  not 
in  the  ash- hole.     When  heat  is  applied  to  a  vessel  of 
water,  in  the  ordinary  way,  the  fluid  particles  near 
the    bottom  of  the  vessel,  being   heated   first   and 
expanding,  become  specifically  lighter  and  ascend  ; 
colder  particles  occupy  their  place,  and  ascend   in 
their  turn ;    and  thus  a  current  is  established,  the 
heated  particles  rising  up  through  the  centre,  and 
colder  particles  descending  at  the  sides.     This  is  evi- 
dently a  very  different  process  from  conduction.     In 
the  case  of  a  solid  the  heat  is  conducted  from  par- 
ticle to  particle ;   but  in  liquids  there  can  be  no 
change  of  temperature  without  a  displacement  of 
particles.     Each  particle,  as  soon  as  it  receives  a 
fresh  accession  of  heat,  starts  off  with  it,  and  con- 
veys it  to  a  distance,  displacing  other  and  colder 
particles  in  its  progress.     This  process  has  received 
the  name  of  convection. 

The  more  a  liquid  is  expanded  by  a  given  change 
of  temperature,  the  greater  will  be  the  difference  of 
specific  gravity  between  the  part  which  is  heated 
and  the  rest  of  the  mass,  aud  the  more  rapid,  there- 
fore, will  be  the  circulation  from  the  change.  Any 
tenacity  or  viscosity  in  the  liquid  will  impede  its 
motion,  and  when  water  is  thickened  with  flour,  or 
other  farinaceous  substances,  it  parts  with  its  ac- 
quired heat  very  slowly.  Many  a  person  has  burned 



his  mouth  with  hot  porridge  and  expressed  his  sur- 
prise at  the  slowness  with  which  it  cools,  without 
being  able  to  assign  the  philosophical  reason  of  the 

The  currents  that  exist  in  the  ocean  are  produced 
by  convection,  and  are  quite  as  easily  accounted  for 
as  the  currents  in  the  heated  water  of  our  tea-kettle. 
The  oceanic  currents  are  of  great  constancy  and 
regularity,  but  they  are  modified  in  their  direction 
by  the  general  distribution  of  land  and  water  on  the 
earth's  surface.  That  part  of  the  ocean  which  is 
immediately  under  the  tropics,  and  between  the 
eastern  and  western  hemispheres,  for  example,  be- 
comes highly  heated.  The  water  being  greatly 
expanded,  flows  off  on  either  side  towards  the  poles, 
acquiring  a  westerly  direction  as  it  passes  south  ot 
the  coast  of  Guinea,  and  striking  the  promontory  of 
Cape  St.  Roque,  on  the  South  American  coast,  is  split 
into  two  streams.  The  smaller  one  continues  south- 
wards towards  Cape  Horn ;  while  the  larger  current 
maintains  a  north-westerly  course  into  the  Gulf  of 
Mexico,  where  it  receives  further  accessions  of  heat, 
and  is  gradually  changed  in  its  direction.  It  now 
passes  along  the  southern  shores  of  North  America, 
and  finally  emerges  northward  in  the  narrow  channel 
between  the  peninsula  of  Florida  and  the  Bahama 
Islands,where  it  assumes  the  name  of  the  Gulf  Stream. 
The  temperature  of  this  current  is  found  to  be  nine 
or  ten  degrees  higher  than  that  of  the  neighbouring 
*  Professor  Daniell. 


ocean.  This  current  passes  on,  gradually  widening 
and  becoming  less  marked,  till  it  is  lost  on  the 
western  shores  of  Europe.  A  less  accurately  defined 
under-current,  from  the  poles,  is  constantly  setting 
in  towards  the  Equator,  to  supply  the  place  of  the 
heated  water  which  takes  the  course  already  de- 
scribed. Besides  rendering  important  aid  to  the 
navigator,  these  oceanic  currents  assist  in  mantain- 
ing  an  equilibrium  of  temperature  on  the  earth, 
moderating  the  severity  of  the  polar  frosts,  and 
tempering  the  sultry  heats  of  the  tropics.* 

Among  the  circumstances  which  materially  affect 
the  vaporization  of  liquids,  one  of  the  most  im- 
portant is  atmospheric  pressure.  We  have  said  that 
water  boils  at  212°,  but  this  statement  requires 
some  qualification,  as  the  boiling  point  of  water  will 
vary  according  to  the  pressure  of  the  atmosphere  as 
indicated  by  the  barometer.  The  aerial  ocean  which 
envelopes  this  planet  presses  upon  the  surface  of 
the  liquid  ocean  with  a  force  equal  to  nearly  fifteen 
pounds  on  every  square  inch  ;  in  other  words,  a 
column  of  air  an  inch  square,  extending  from  the 
level  of  the  sea  to  the  top  of  the  atmosphere,  weighs 
between  fourteen  and  fifteen  pounds.  The  elastic 
force  of  air  is  necessarily  equal  to  its  pressure.  Let 
us  try  to  make  this  point  intelligible  to  the  reader. 
If  the  mercury  of  a  barometer  stands  at  a  height 
of  about  thirty  inches  in  the  open  air,  indicating  a 
pressure  of  fifteen  poxmds,  it  will  stand  at  exactly 
*  Professor  Miller. 



the  same  height  in  a  close  room  from  which  all 
communication  with  the  external  air  has  been  cut 
off.  The  lowest  stratum  of  the  atmosphere  is 
pressed  upon  by  the  strata  above  it,  and  being 
highly  elastic,  it  assumes  the  condition  of  a  bent 
spring.  The  confined  air  of  the  room  is  therefore 
able  to  support  thirty  inches  of  mercury  by  the 
elasticity  which  it  acquired  before  the  doors  and 
windows  were  closed. 

We  shall  now  be  able  to  understand  the  relation 
that  subsists  between  the  phenomenon  of  ebullition 
and  atmospheric  pressure.  Water  evaporates,  or  is 
convei'ted  into  steam  at  all  temperatures,  until  the 
whole  space  above  it  is  filled  with  watery  vapour 
of  a  certain  elasticity.  This  is  a  wise  provision  of 
nature,  for  if  water  obstinately  retained  its  liquid 
form  at  all  temperatures  below  212°,  the  moistui'e 
that  descended  to  the  earth  in  the  form  of  rain 
would  never  be  evaporated  during  the  hottest 
summers.  But  there  is  a  difference  between  eva- 
poration at  low  temperatures  and  ebullition  or 
boiling.  Water  must  be  heated  until  its  vapour 
acquires  an  elasticity  equal  to  that  of  the  atmo- 
sphere before  ebullition  can  take  place.  At  212° 
the  elastic  force  of  steam  will  support  a  column  of 
mercury  thirty  inches  high,  and  at  this  temperature 
the  steam-bubbles  acquire  the  power  of  breaking 
through  the  surface  of  the  heated  water,  provided 
the  barometer  stands  at  thirty  inches. 

Were  we  to  carry  our  kettle  to  the  summit  of  a 


high  mountain,  we  should  find  that  the  water  would 
boil  at  a  very  low  temperature,  and  never  become 
hot  enough  to  make  a  decent  cup  of  tea.  Thus  at 
the  town  of  Potosi,  on  the  Andes,  where  the  stiper- 
incumbent  pressure  of  air  will  only  support  some 
eighteen  inches  of  mercury,  water  boils  at  188°. 
Again,  were  we  to  carry  our  kettle  to  the  bottom 
of  a  deep  mine,  we  should  have  to  heat  the  water 
to  a  point  considerably  higher  than  212°  before  it 
would  boil,  owing  to  the  increased  height  of  the 
column  of  air  pressing  upon  its  surface. 

We  now  turn  to  the  examination  of  another  in- 
teresting point  connected  with  the  boiling  of  water. 
The  reader  will  doubtless  imagine  that  the  hotter 
a  vessel  is  into  which  water  is  poured  the  sooner 
the  liquid  will  boil.  This  is  far  from  being  the 
case,  as  may  be  proved  by  pouring  a  small  quantity 
of  water  into  a  silver  basin  heated  to  redness. 
Instead  of  flashing  into  steam,  as  might  be  expected, 
the  water  will  gather  itself  into  a  globule  and  dance 
about  on  the  hot  surface  as  if  bewitched.  The  liquid 
is  in  a  state  of  incessant  motion :  sometimes  it 
elongates  itself  into  an  oval  in  one  direction  ;  then, 
drawing  itself  up,  it  stretches  out  in  a  cross  direc- 
tion, and  these  changes  take  place  so  rapidly  that  a 
star-shaped  figure  or  rosette  is  often  the  result. 
While  the  drop  is  in  this  spheroidal  condition,  as  it 
has  been  called,  let  the  lamp  which  heats  it  be 
withdrawn  ;  the  basin  gradually  cools,  and  after  a 
short  time  the  drop  loses  its  spheroidal  form, 


spreads  out  on  the  metallic  surface,  and  is  instantly 
thrown  into  violent  ebullition.  This  striking  phe- 
nomenon is  generally  known  as  Leidenfrost's  expe- 

All  volatizable  liquids  under  similar  circum- 
stances behave  as  water  does.  Liquid  sulphurous 
acid,  for  instance,  when  poured  into  a  red-hot  silver 
or  platinum  crucible,  retains  its  spheroidal  state ; 
its  temperature  never  rising  beyond  its  boiling 
point.  Now,  as  the  boiling  point  of  this  liquid  is 
18°,  and  therefore  much  below  the  freezing  point 
of  water,  we  can  actually  freeze  water  in  a  red-hot 
crucible  by  pouring  it  into  the  sulphurous  acid  ! 
The  same  thing  occurs  with  a  mixture  of  ether  and 
solid  carbonic  acid  when  introduced  into  a  red-hot 
metallic  vessel.  The  mixture  requires  for  its  con- 
version into  gas  as  much  time  as  it  would  in  the 
air  at  the  ordinary  temperature.  If  we  introduce 
into  this  mixture  a  small  tube  containing  a  little 
mercury,  the  liquid  metal  instantly  congeals  into  a 
solid  !  *  Again,  in  the  place  of  a  metallic  basin  or 
crucible,  water  near  its  boiling  point  may  be  made 
use  of  to  support  a  drop  of  ether.  Instead  of 
mixing  with  the  hot  water,  the  ether  gathers  itself 
up  into  a  globule  and  rolls  about  upon  the  surface 
of  the  other  liquid. 

Let  us  confine  our  attention  to  the  original  expe- 
riment, to  the  dancing  drop  in  the  red-hot  basin. 
By  a  series  of  beautiful  experiments  it  has  been 
*  Liebig. 


satisfactorily  proved  that  the  spheroidal  drop  never 
touches  the  heated  surface,  but  is  separated  from  it 
by  a  considerable  interval.  To  what,  then,  is  this 
interval  due1?  Let  us  quote  the  words  of  a  clever 
writer  to  whom  we  are  indebted  for  many  of  the 
facts  contained  in  this  chapter. 

"  At  an  early  period  of  railway  history,  it  was  pro- 
posed by  that  original  genius  George  Stephenson  to 
substitute  for  ordinary  steel  springs,  in  the  case  of 
locomotives,  springs  of  elastic  steam.  It  was  proposed 
to  convey  the  steam  into  cylinders  in  which  pistons 
should  move  steam-tight;  these  pistons  supported 
by  the  steam  beneath  them,  were  to  bear  the  weight 
of  the  locomotive.  Now  what  the  great  engineer 
proposed  for  the  locomotive,  the  spheroidal  drop 
effects  for  itself — it  is  borne  upon  a  cushion  of  its 
own  steam.  The  surface  must  be  hot  enough  to 
generate  steam  of  sufficient  tension  to  lift  the  drop. 
The  body  which  bears  the  drop  must  be  of  such  a 
nature  as  to  yield  up  readily  a  supply  of  heat;  for 
the  drop  evaporates  and  becomes  gradually  smaller, 
and  to  make  good  the  heat  absorbed  by  the  vapour, 
the  substance  on  which  the  drop  rests  must  yield 
heat  freely;  in  other  words,  it  must  be  a  good  con- 
ductor of  heat. 

"  It  is  to  the  escape  of  steam  in  regular  pulses 
from  beneath  the  drop  that  the  beautiful  figures 
which  it  sometimes  exhibits  are  to  be  referred.  By 
using  a  very  flat  basin  over  which  the  spheroidal 
drop  spreads  itself  widely,  we  render  it  difficult  for 


the  vapour  to  escape  from  the  centre  to  the  edges 
of  the  drop;  and  this  resistance  may  be  increased 
till  the  vapour  finds  it  easier  to  break  in  bubbles 
through  the  middle  of  the  drop  than  to  escape 

"  All  these  facts  are  in  perfect  harmony  with  the 
explanation,  that  it  is  the  development  and  inces- 
sant removal  of  a  steam-spring  at  the  lower  surface 
of  the  drop  which  keeps  the  liquid  from  contact 
with  the  metal  and  shields  it  from  the  communica- 
tion of  heat  by  contact.  Owing  to  this,  indeed, 
the  liquid  in  the  spheroidal  condition  never  reaches 
its  boiling  temperature.  If  you  plunge  a  thermo- 
meter into  a  spheroid  of  water  in  a  red-hot  vessel, 
its  temperature  will  be  found  to  be  several  degrees 
under  212°.  When  the  lamp  is  withdrawn  and 
the  basin  cools,  the  tension  of  the  steam  under- 
neath the  drop  becomes  gradually  feebler.  The 
spring  loses  its  force,  the  drop  sinks  and  finally 
comes  in  contact  with  the  metal.  Heat  is  then 
suddenly  imparted  to  the  liquid,  which  immediately 
bursts  into  ebullition."*  • 

It  is  well  known  that  we  may  introduce  the  hand, 
if  moist,  into  melted  lead,  nay,  into  white-hot  melted 
copper  or  iron,  and  move  it  slowly  about  in  the°e 
liquids,  not  only  without  burning  the  hand,  but 
without  even  feeling  the  intense  heat  of  the  melted 
metals;  whereas  iron  or  copper  at  a  heat  far  below 
redness,  instantly  causes  a  blister  or  burn.  This 
*  Westminster  Eeview. 


apparent  anomaly  is  easily  explained.  The  intense 
heat  of  the  melted  metal  instantly  vaporizes  the 
moisture  of  the  hand,  and  the  experimentalist  re- 
ceives no  injury,  as  his  hand  is  protected  by  a  thick 
glove  of  non-conducting  steam. 

It  is  highly  probable  that  the  priests  of  old  were 
acquainted  with  this  fact,  and  made  good  use  of  it 
in  the  ordeal  of  fire.  When  a  person  was  accused 
of  some  crime  which  could  not  be  proved  against 
him,  he  was  subjected  to  the  fiery  ordeal,  that  is  to 
say,  he  had  to  plunge  his  arm  into  molten  lead  or 
walk  barefooted  over  red-hot  ploughshares.  If  he 
passed  through  the  ordeal  scathless,  his  innocence 
was  held  to  be  satisfactorily  established.  Now  the 
reader  need  not  be  told  that  the  safety  of  the  sus- 
pected person  did  not  depend  on  his  freedom  from 
guilt  but  on  the  moisture  of  his  arm  or  feet  and 
the  heat  of  the  metal.  The  greatest  criminal  might 
walk  over  hot  ploughshares,  provided  they  were  hot 
enough  to  give  him  sandals  of  vapour. 

Truly  the  humble  tea-kettle  is  wonderfully  sug- 
gestive. We  had  almost  forgotten  that  it  forms 
the  text  of  the  present  chapter,  but  just  now  the 
water  boiled  over  and  reminded  us  that  we  had 
not  touched  upon  those  grand  kettles  of  nature, 
the  Geysers,  or  intermittent  boiling  fountains  of 

The  Geysers,  of  which  there  are  a  considerable 
number,  are  springs  of  hot  water  holding  a  large 
quantity  of  silex  or  flint  in  solution,  which  issue 


from  the  beds  of  lava  of  which  the  wonderful  vol- 
canic island  is  chiefly  composed.  A  jet  of  boiling 
water,  accompanied  with  a  great  evolution  of  vapour, 
first  appears,  and  is  ejected  to  a  considerable  height ; 
a  dense  volume  of  steam  succeeds,  and  is  thrown  up 
with  prodigious  force,  and  a  terrific  noise  like  that 
produced  by  the  escape  of  vapour  from  the  boiler 
of  a  steam-engine.  Nature's  cauldron  boils  over  ! 
This  operation  sometimes  lasts  for  more  than  an 
hour,  and  after  an  interval  of  repose  of  uncertain 
duration,  the  same  phenomena  are  repeated. 

The  Great  Geyser  is  the  most  celebrated  of  these 
boiling  fountains.  Sir  George  Mackenzie,  who  was 
the  first  to  describe  it,  states  that  its  eruptions  were 
preceded  by  a  sound  resembling  the  distant  discharge 
of  heavy  ordnance,  and  the  ground  shook  sensibly  ; 
the  sound  was  rapidly  1'epeated,  when  the  water  in 
the  basin,  after  heaving  several  times,  suddenly  rose 
in  a  large  column,  accompanied  by  clouds  of  steam, 
to  the  height  of  ten  or  twelve  feet.  The  column 
then  seemed  to  burst,  and  sinking  down  produced 
a  wave,  which  caused  the  water  to  overflow  the 
basin.  A  succession  of  eighteen  or  twenty  jets  now 
took  place,  some  of  which  rose  from  a  height  of 
from  fifty  to  ninety  feet.  The  last  eruption  was 
the  most  violent ;  this  beJng  over,  the  water  sud- 
denly disappeared  from  the  basin,  and  sunk  down  a 
pipe  in  the  centre  to  a  depth  of  ten  feet ;  but  in 
the  course  of  a  few  hours  the  phenomena  were 
repeated  with  increased  energy.  The  basin  of  the 


Great  Geyser  is  an  irregular  oval,  about  fifty-six 
feet  by  forty-six,  formed  of  a  mound  of  flinty  de- 
posits about  seven  feet  high.  The  channel  through 
which  the  water  is  ejected  is  about  sixteen  feet  in 
diameter  at  the  opening,  but  it  contracts  to  ten  feet 
lower  down  ;  its  depth  is  estimated  at  sixty  feet. 

From  experiments  made  by  the  Chevalier  Bunsen, 
in  1846,  it  appears  that  the  Geysers  are  irregular 
tubes  fed  with  rain  and  snow-water,  and  that  their 
peculiar  form  favours  the  heating  of  the  lower  por- 
tions of  the  contained  water,  by  the  subterranean 
fires,  to  a  degree  far  above  the  boiling  point.  The 
eruption  of  one  of  these  Geysers  is  explained  by 
supposing  that  when  the  whole  of  the  contained 
water  is  sufficiently  heated  to  allow  of  ebullition 
towards  the  upper  part  of  the  tube,  portion  after 
portion  of  the  highly  heated  water  successively 
bursts  into  steam  as  the  pressure  is  diminished  by 
the  removal  of  the  upper  portion  of  the  aqueous 

That  this  is  the  true  explanation  of  the  pheno- 
mena is  highly  probable,  since  artificial  Geysers  have 
been  constructed  of  iron  tubes,  which  being  filled 
with  water,  and  heated  near  the  lower  extremity  by 
burning  charcoal,  eject  little  columns  of  boiling 
water,  and  mimic  all  the  phenomena  presented  by 
the  natural  Geysers. 

Let  us  now  ring  the  bell,  and  tell  Mary  to  take 
away  the  tea-kettle,  for  there  is  no  knowing  what 
abstruse  subjects  it  may  suggest,  as  it  sits  on  the 


hob,  singing  its  peculiar  version  of  "  Home,  sweet 
home  !"  The  reader  must  admit  that  the  title  we 
have  chosen  for  this  chapter  is  the  only  term  that 
would  embrace  all  the  wonderful  facts  we  have 
related.  The  bubbles  and  currents  of  boiling  water, 
the  dancing  and  ever-changing  globule,  and  the 
huge  cauldrons  of  Iceland,  fall  quite  naturally  under 
the  indefinite  heading  of  "  Water  Bewitched." 

*£**>   »    « 

AS?      &..-•& 


XkiJUrf  \/> 

^4-  i^  * j  **&*&* 

*  ^n 

4x:^  HX^ 

fV  *• 



"  We  fly  by  night." — Macbeth. 

LET  us  take  our  station,  on  a  clear  evening,  in 
some  wide,  open  plain,  and  gaze  upward  and 
around  on  the  star-spangled  heavens  that  shroud 
and  reveal — reveal  and  shroud — the  unfathomable 
mystery  of  the  INFINITE  and  ETERNAL.  Though 
from  the  spot  we  occupy  in  space  we  can  see  only  a 
small  portion  of  the  visible  universe,  yet  even  with 
the  naked  eye  we  behold  a  multitude  of  bright 
luminaries.  As  we  continue  to  watch  them  we 
find  that  the  immense  majority  of  them  shine  with 
a  twinkling  light,  and  retain  the  same  relative  posi- 
tion to  each  other,  whilst  the  remainder,  very  few 
in  number,  shed  a  steady  light,  and  change  their 
places  continually,  returning  at  given  periods  in  the 
same  path.  We  are  thus  led  to  divide  the  heavenly 
bodies  within  the  sphere  of  our  perception  into  two 
principal  classes  or  systems — the  sidereal — as  we 
will  call  it  here,  for  convenience'  sake — and  the 
planetary.  The  stars  belonging  to  the  former  are 
popularly  called  fixed  stars,  although  this  term,  in 
its  strictest  acceptation,  must  be  held  not  to  be 


quite  applicable  to  them,  as  they  unquestionably 
have  measurable  motions  of  their  own.  Those 
belonging  to  the  latter  are  called  erratic  or  wander- 
ing stars,  popularly  planets,  from  a  Greek  word 
signifying  a  wanderer ;  these  include  the  sun,  moon, 
our  own  earth,  and  the  other  planetary  bodies,  as 
well  as  the  comets.  The  erratic  stars  constitute, 
with  the  sun — about  which  they  move  as  their 
common  centre  or  focus,  in  obedience  to  the  great 
universal  law  of  gravitation  revealed  to  us  by  the 
genius  of  Newton  and  his  sublime  predecessor  the 
illustrious  Kepler — the  solar  system,  which,  however 
so  infmitesimally  small  in  comparison  to  the  infinite 
magnitude  and  extent  of  the  sidereal  world,  men 
must  naturally  regard  with  greater  and  more  vivid 
— nay,  if  the  expression  may  be  permitted  us,  with 
more  affectionate  —  interest  than  the  universe 
beyond.  Moreover,  the  bodies  composing  this  sys- 
tem are  comparatively  near  to  us,  and  more  within 
the  reach  of  our  observation,  than  the  fixed  stars, 
which  are  placed  at  immeasurable  distances  from 
us.  Let  us,  therefore,  first  take,  as  we  are  being 
wafted  on  with  our  planet  through  space,  a  rapid 
survey  of  them,  before  proceeding  to  the  contempla- 
tion of  the  "  world  of  worlds"  beyond. 

By  a  long  series  of  patient  observations  of  a  most 
delicate  kind,  aided  by  the  telescope  and  other  mar- 
vellous instruments  devised  by  human  ingenuity, 
and  by  refined  combinations  of  theoretical  reasoning 
and  logical  induction,  man  has  succeeded  in  rnea- 


suring  the  dimensions,  gauging  as  it  were  the  con- 
tents, and  weighing  as  in  a  balance  the  mass,  not  of 
our  earth  alone,  but  of  all  the  other  planets,  and  of 
the  great  sun  himself. 

Thus  we  know  that  the  equatorial  diameter  of 
our  globe  is  about  7926,  the  polar  diameter  7900 
miles  ;  that  our  earth  revolves  round  its  axis  with 
a  velocity  of  nearly  12  miles  in  a  minute,  and  that 
it  moves  in  its  orbit  round  the  sun  at  a  rate  of 
more  than  1000  miles  a  minute  ;  that  its  distance 
from  the  sun  is  95,000,000  miles. 

The  moon,  the  satellite  of  the  Earth,  is  distant 
from  it  some  240,000  miles,  and  revolves  round  it 
in  27^  days  ;  its  diameter  measures  only  2180  miles. 

Of  the  other  planetary  bodies,  some  are  consider- 
ably larger,  some  smaller,  than  our  earth.  The 
largest  of  all,  the  brightest  among  them,  is  Jupiter, 
with  a  diameter  of  about  88,000  miles,  and  a  bulk 
1 300  times  that  of  the  Earth  ;  owing  to  his  infei-ior 
density,  his  mass  is,  however,  only  upwards  of  370 
times  that  of  our  globe.  Perpetual  spring  reigns 
on  this  King  of  Planets.  Jupiter  is  attended  by 
four  satellites  or  moons,  with  the  exception  of  one, 
each  of  them  larger  than  our  moon,  which  revolve 
round  him  from  west  to  east.  His  distance  from 
the  sun  is  485,000,000  miles ;  his  revolution  round 
the  great  centre  of  the  planetary  world  occupies  12 
years.  The  next  in  size  is  Saturn,  with  a  diameter 
of  79,000  miles,  and  accordingly  about  1000  times 
larger  than  the  Earth  ;  he  is  890,000,000  miles  dis- 



tant  from  the  sun,  and  revolves  round  it  in  29 
years.  A  revolving  luminous  ring,  consisting  of 
three  distinct  portions,  one  within  the  other,  sur- 
rounds this  most  remarkable  planet,  and  eight 
satellites  revolve  round  him.  Uranus  was,  up  to 
Adams's,  Leverrier's,  and  Galle's  recent  discovery  of 
Neptune,  considered  the  most  distant  planet  from 
the  solar  centre  of  the  system  ;  the  distance  being 
calculated  at  1,800,000,000  miles,  and  the  period  of 
revolution,  84  years.  The  diameter  of  Uranus  is 
35,000  miles,  and  the  bulk  about  80,  the  mass  about 
20,  times  that  of  the  Earth  ;  at  least  four  satellites 
are  known  to  revolve  round  him,  and  several  more 
undoubtedly  exist.  Neptune,  now  the  most  distant 
known  planet  from  the  sun  (2,800,000,000  miles), 
revolves  round  the  latter  in  1 65  years ;  the  diameter 
of  this  planet  is  37,500  miles,  the  bulk  about  107 
times  that  of  the  Earth,  the  mass  about  the  same  as 
that  of  Uranus.  Among  the  lesser  planets,  we  have 
to  mention  Mercury,  the  one  nearest  the  solar  centre, 
being  distant  from  it  only  37,000,000  miles ;  the 
period  of  his  revolution  is  88  days.  His  diameter  is 
about  3200  miles ;  from  the  close  proximity  of  this 
planet  to  the  sun,  it  is  conjectured  that  the  mean 
heat  in  it  is  above  that  of  boiling  qiiicksilver,  and 
even  near  the  poles  water  would  always  boil.  Its 
mass  is  about  one-twelfth  that  of  the  Earth,  the 
mean  density  rather  greater  than  that  of  our  planet. 
Venus,  next  to  Jupiter  the  brightest  and  most  im- 
portant and  interesting  of  the  planets,  has  a  diameter 


of  about  7800  miles;  some  68,000,000  miles  distant 
from  the  centre  of  the  solar  system,  she  revolves 
round  it  in  224  days.  Nearly  of  equal  size,  mass, 
and  density  as  the  Earth,  and  with  a  comparatively 
trifling  difference  of  some  27,000,000  miles  between 
the  respective  distances  of  the  two  planets  from  the 
sun,  Venus  would  be  supposed  to  present  the  same 
climatological  and  meteorological  conditions  as  her 
sister  planet ;  and  this  would  unquestionably  be  the 
case,  but  that  Venus  happens  to  turn  most  obliquely 
round  her  axis,  whence  it  results  that  snow  and  ice 
cannot  accumulate  at  the  poles,  which  are  subjected 
by  turns  for  some  four  months  to  the  fierce  glare  of 
an  almost  vertical  sun,  and  that  there  are  no  tempe- 
rate zones  in  that  planet  as  in  ours ;  though  an 
atmosphere,  much  loaded  with  clouds,  would  cer- 
tainly seem  to  mitigate  in  some  measure  the  in- 
tense glare  and  heat  of  the  sunshine. 

Mars,  the  nearest  of  the  superior  planets  exterior 
to  the  Earth,  presents  more  points  of  similarity  to 
the  latter  than  any  of  the  other.  His  diameter  is 
about  4100  miles,  his  distance  from  the  solar  centre, 
round  which  he  revolves  in  687  days,  142,000,000 
miles;  his  mass  is  about  one-seventh  part  of  that  of 
the  Earth,  and  his  density  a  trifle  smaller.  He  is 
evidently  surrounded  by  an  atmosphere  of  consider- 
able density  ;  he  shines  with  a  red  and  fiery  light ; 
seen  through  a  good  telescope,  his  disk  presents 
something  like  a  vague  delineation  of  seas  and  con- 
tinents. Near  the  poles  a  zone  of  white  is  seen, 
N  2 


clearly  denoting  the  existence  of  large  masses  of 
snow.  The  climate  of  this  planet  must  be  consider- 
ably colder  than  ours  j  but,  from  the  similar  obli- 
quity of  the  ecliptic,  and  almost  identical  period  of 
diurnal  rotation  of  the  two,  the  changes  of  the 
seasons  must  be  very  similar  to  our  own,  though 
with  much  greater  variations. 

Besides  these  larger  planets,  there  are  found 
between  Mars  and  Jupiter  about  thirty  smaller 
planets  and  asteroids,  most  of  them  exceedingly 
minute,  and  discernible  only  through  the  telescope. 
Vesta  and  Pallas  are  the  brightest  among  them, 
and  may,  when  nearest  to  us,  be  just  barely  detected 
with  the  naked  eye,  though  even  then  with  the 
greatest  difficulty  only. 

To  convey  to  the  mind  of  the  reader  an  intelli- 
gible general  impression  of  the  relative  magnitudes 
and  distances  of  the  principal  parts  of  the  planetary 
system,  let  a  globe  two  feet  in  diameter  be  placed 
on  a  well  levelled  field,  to  represent  the  /Sun. 
Mercury  will  then  be  represented  by  a  grain  of 
mustard-seed  on  the  circumference  of  a  circle  164 
feet  in  diameter  for  its  orbit.  Venus  will  appear 
as  a  pea,  on  a  circle  284  feet  in  diameter  ;  the  Earth 
of  the  same  size,  on  a  circle  of  430  feet ;  Mars  of  the 
size  of  a  rather  large  pin's  head,  on  a  circle  of  654 
feet ;  Juno,  Ceres,  Vesta,  and  Pallas,  grains  of  sand, 
in  orbits  of  from  1000  to  1200  feet ;  Jupiter  a 
moderate-sized  orange,  on  a  circle  about  720  yards 
across  ;  Saturn  a  smaller  orange,  on  a  circle  of  four- 
fifths  of  a  mile;  Uranus  a  small  plum,  on  the  circum- 


ference  of  a  circle  above  a  mile  and  a  half  in  diameter ; 
Neptune  a  somewhat  larger  plum,  on  the  circum- 
ference of  a  circle  about  two  miles  and  a  third  in 

Having  thus  briefly  glanced  at  the  planetary  satel- 
lites of  the  sun,  we  will  now  proceed  to  view,  with 
equal  briefness,  that  great  centre  of  the  system 
itself,  which  feeds  and  vivifies  them  all  with  its 
glorious  rays.  The  stupendous  globe  which  we  call 
the  sun,  is  about  1,400,000  times  as  large  as  our 
earth,  its  diameter  being  885,000  miles  !  However, 
its  density  being  only  0'2543  as  compared  to  that 
of  the  earth,  it  contains  only  354,936  times  the 
mass  or  quantity  of  ponderable  matter  that  the 
latter  consists  of.  It  turns  on  its  axis  in  25^  days, 
as  proved  by  telescopic  observations  of  certain  dark 
spots  on  its  surface.  The  sun  apparently  moves 
round  the  earth,  though  it  is  in  reality  the  latter 
body  which  moves  round  the  sun,  in  a  nearly 
circular  orbit,  described  in  a  plane,  sensibly  fixed, 
called  the  ecliptic.  The  ancients  called  that  portion 
of  the  heavens  in  which  the  sun's  apparent  orbit  is 
performed  the  zodiac,  and  divided  the  great  circle 
formed  by  the  intersection  of  the  plane  of  this  orbit 
with  the  sphere  of  the  heavens  into  twelve  equal 
portions  or  signs,  named  in  order — Aries,  Taurus, 
Gemini,  Cancer,  Leo,  Virgo,  Libra,  Scorpio,  Sagitta- 
rius, Capricornus,  Aquarius,  Pisces.  The  sun,  how- 
ever, has  also  a  real  motion :  he  moves  with  the  entire 
solar  system  in  the  direction  of  the  constellation  of 
Hercules  in  the  western  sky.  The  sun's  rays  are 


the  ultimate  soui'ce  of  all  the  motions  observed  on 
the  surface  of  our  planet,  and  of  all  vegetable  and 
animal  life  on  it ;  since  it  is  by  their  vivifying 
action  that  plants  are  elaborated  from  inorganic 
matter,  to  become  in  their  turn  the  support  of 
animals  and  of  man,  and  the  source  of  our  great  coal 
deposits,  so  felicitously  and  truly  called  by  the  late 
George  Stephenson  "  bottled  sunshine  /"  By  the 
unequal  action  of  the  solar  heat  are  produced  all 
winds  and  storms,  and  those  disturbances  in  the 
electric  equilibrium  of  the  atmosphere  which  give 
rise  to  the  phenomena  of  terrestrial  magnetism.  By 
the  solar  rays  the  waters  of  the  sea  are  drawn  up 
into  the  air  in  vapour,  to  descend  again  in  rain, 
irrigating  and  fertilizing  the  laud,  and  producing 
springs  and  rivers.  To  their  action  and  influence 
must  mainly  and  primarily  be  attributed  the 
chemical  compositions  and  decompositions  of  the 
elements  of  nature,  nay,  even  the  phenomena  of 
volcanic  activity. 

Judging  by  what  we  see  around  us  on  our  own 
globe,  and  by  the  way  in  which  every  corner  of  it  is 
crowded  with  living  beings,  and  arguing  from  the 
most  natural  of  all  analogies,  most,  if  not  all,  of  the 
other  larger  planets  of  our  solar  system  must  be 
held  to  be  habitable  and  inhabited  worlds  like  our 

By  nations  in  the  infancy  of  intellectual  develop- 
ment the  heavens  above  and  around  us  might  have 
been  looked  upon  as  a  kind  of  solid  arch,  vault,  or 
canopy,  hung  with  greater  and  lesser  lamps,  intended 


solely  for  the  special  behoof  and  benefit  of  the  puny 
dwellers  on  this  puny  atom  which  we  call  our  earth. 
But  we  of  a  generation  immeasurably  more  ad- 
vanced in  knowledge,  to  whom  the  beneficence  of 
the  CREATOR  has  deigned  to  unclasp  the  first  volume 
of  the  great  Book  of  Nature,  that  we  may  read  the 
marvellous  page,  and  bow  down  and  adore  the 
Infinite  Wisdom  that  conceived,  the  Infinite  Power 
that  made  this  glorious  world  ;  we,  who  are  per- 
mitted to  walk  in  the  light  of  knowledge  and  science, 
before  which  the  desponding  comment  of  "Athena's 
wisest  son"  upon  human  knowledge,  that 

"All  we  know  is — nothing  can  be  known," 

stands  rebuked  and  disproved  ;  we  who  may  span 
with  a  thought  the  inconceivable  distance  which 
separates  our  planet  from  the  "  threshold  of  space" 
— we  can  no  longer  entertain  the  same  crude  and 
"  unintelligent"  notion  of  the  "  nature  and  purpose" 
of  the  works  of  the  Divine  Hand. 

The  discoveries  of  science  have  disclosed  to  us  in 
each  planet,  which,  like  our  own,  revolves  in  regu- 
lated periods  round  the  sun,  provisions  in  all  respects 
similar  to  those  found  to  exist  here  : — the  same 
structure,  form,  and  materials — the  same  action  and 
influence  of  the  same  calorific  and  illuminating 
agency — the  same  alternations  of  light  and  dark- 
ness, produced  by  the  same  means — the  same  pleasing 
succession  of  seasons — the  same  diversity  of  climate 
— the  same  agreeable  distribution  of  land  and  water. 

With  the  overwhelming  evidence  of  these  most 

184  A    FLIGHT    THROUGH    SPACE. 

essential  analogies  between  our  own  and  the  other 
planets  before  our  mind,  how  can  we  doubt  but  that 
those  other  "celestial  structures"  have  been  made, 
provided,  and  fitted  by  God  to  be  the  abodes  of 
sentient  beings  kindred  to  the  denizens  of  our  earth  1 
As  direct  evidence  of  the  fact,  however,  remains  as 
yet  still  denied  us,  attempts  have  not  been,  and 
even  now  are  not  wanting  to  throw  doubt  on  the 
correctness  of  this  inference  from  our  analogical 
reasoning.  But  most  of  the  "  arguments"  adduced 
against  the  supposition  of  the  planets  being  inhabit- 
able globes  like  our  earth  are  of  too  flimsy  and  futile 
a  nature  to  be  deserving  even  of  a  passing  allusion ; 
others  have  been  convincingly  refuted.  Thus,  to 
give  an  instance,  it  has  been  advanced  that  Jupiter, 
Saturn,  Uranus,  and  Neptune,  being  severally  five, 
nine,  eighteen,  and  twenty-eight  times  fai'ther  re- 
moved from  the  sun  than  our  earth,  the  heating  and 
illuminating  power  of  the  solar  rays  must  be  in  these 
large  planets  respectively  25,  81,  324,  and  784 
times  less  than  on  our  globe,  which  would  preclude 
the  possibility  of  the  existence  on  them  of  beings 
organized  like  the  denizens  of  earth.  The  simple 
consideration,  however,  that  a  mere  enlargement  of 
the  pupil  of  the  eye  in  the  ratio  of  the  diminution 
of  the  apparent  superficial  magnitude  of  the  sun's 
disk  as  respectively  beheld  from  these  planets,  or  a 
proportionally  increased  sensibility  of  the  retina, 
would  leave  the  illuminating  power  of  the  sun 
the  same  as  at  the  earth  •  and  that  in  like  man- 
ner the  diminished  calorific  power  of  the  solar  rays 


might  be  compensated  by  modified  atmospheric  con- 
ditions, will  suffice  to  dispose  of  this  objection. 
The  only  tenable  argument  against  the  habitable- 
ness  of  those  large  globes  might  be,  that  from  their 
vast  magnitude  in  comparison  to  the  earth  the 
effects  of  gravity  upon  them  would  be  such  as  to 
unfit  species  organized  like  those  of  the  latter  for 
existence  there,  since  they  would,  in  fact,  be  crushed 
to  pieces  under  the  enormous  pressure  of  their  own 
weight.  But  leaving  out  of  consideration  the  very 
obvious  expedient  of  a  proportionate  adaptation  of 
the  size  and  weight  of  the  bodies  placed  upon  these 
globes  to  the  respective  magnitudes  of  the  latter, 
a  more  careful  examination  of  the  question,  and  ap- 
plication of  the  rule,  that  "the  weight  of  bodies 
placed  upon  the  surface  of  a  globe  depends  con- 
jointly on  the  quantity  of  matter  in  the  globe,  and 
on  the  distance  of  the  body  from  its  centre,"  will  at 
once  show  that  owing  to  the  inferior  density  of  the 
matter  composing  the  four  large  planets,  which  in 
comparison  to  that  of  the  matter  composing  the 
Earth,  is  for  Jupiter  as  1  to  4,  for  Saturn  as  1  to  85, 
for  Uranus  and  Neptune  as  1  to  6  ;  the  weight  of 
bodies  placed  on  the  surfaces  of  the  three  latter 
planets  actually  does  not  differ  much  from  their 
weight  on  the  earth,  whilst  in  the  case  of  Jupiter, 
it  is  only  2f  times  greater  than  upon  the  terrestrial 

In  the  case  of  the  moon  we  are  led  to  believe 
from  the  desolate  bleakness  of  her  surface,  and  the 
total  absence  of  all  indications  of  an  atmosphere,  that 


she  is  not  inhabited  by  organized  beings.  But  even 
here,  how  know  we  but  that  that  most  beneficent  ema- 
nation of  the  "  self-evolving  energy  divine,"  that 
most  powerful  agent  in  the  mysterious  chemistry  of 
the  spheres — the  all-vivifying  rays  of  the  sun,  may 
not  be  silently  at  work  re-fitting  even  that  "  cinder 
of  an  extinct  world,"  for  the  habitation  of  kindred 
beings  1 

The  satellites  of  the  other  planets  have  been 
proved  by  astronomical  observation  to  be  under 
physical  conditions  similar  to  that  of  the  moon  ; 
and  it  is  probable,  therefore,  that  they  are  at  all 
events  not  as  yet  in  a  proper  state  of  habitability. 
Finally,  as  regards  the  planetoids  or  asteroids — 
whether  we  look  upon  them  in  the  light  of  frag- 
ments of  a  smashed  or  exploded  planet,  or  in  that 
of  germs  or  constituent  elements  of  a  future  planet 
in  process  of  formation  by  coalescing  and  agglome- 
ration— it  is  plain  that  they  present  none  of  the 
leading  and  essential  analogies  to  our  earth  that  are 
observed  in  the  larger  planets. 

To  those  "  strange  wanderers  of  the  sky,"  comets, 
we  intend  to  devote  a  separate  chapter,  and  will 
therefore  now  at  once  wing  our  flight  beyond  the 
narrow  limits  of  our  solar  system,  to  the  confines  of 
the  visible  universe — to  the  threshold  of  the  abyss 
of  space  beyond. 

The  innumerable  multitude  of  celestial  bodies, 
which  seemingly  preserve  from  age  to  age  the  same 
relative  situation  in  the  heavens,  and  are  therefore 


popularly  called  "fixed  stars'''  (although,  as  we  have 
already  taken  occasion  to  observe,  they  have  un- 
questionably all  of  them  measurable  motions  of 
their  own,  too  slow,  indeed,  to  be  sensibly  percep- 
tible, yet  none  the  less  real),  were  classified'  by  the 
ancients  into  fanciful  groups,  called  constellations, 
to  which  names  were  assigned,  either  from  some 
supposed  resemblance  of  the  outlines  of  the  group 
to  figures  of  men,  animals,  or  other  objects — for  ex- 
ample, Ursa  Major,  Ursa  Minor,  Draco,  Aquila, 
Cygnus.  Serpens ;  the  names  of  the  signs  of  the 
zodiac,  which  we  have  already  given  ;  Lyra,  &c.  ; 
or  by  way  of  a  special  tribute  of  veneration  to  some 
departed  hero  or  heroine — e.g.,  Hercules,  Perseus, 
Andromeda,  Cassiopeia,  &c. ;  or  from  the  most 
grovelling  adulation — of  which  the  name  of  Coma 
Berenices,  bestowed  upon  a  constellation  above  Leo, 
affords  a  most  striking  instance.  Berenice,  daughter 
of  Magas  of  Gyrene,  and  wife  of  Ptolemy  III., 
King  of  Egypt,  rejoiced  in  an  abundance  of  very 
beautiful  hair,  of  which  she  was  inordinately  vain  ; 
a  portion  of  this  had  been  suspended  in  a  temple, 
from  which  it  was  suddenly  missed  one  day — to  the 
great  consternation  of  the  courtiers,  who  had  reason 
to  dread  the  anger  of  the  "  bereaved"  beauty.  How- 
ever, Conon  the  astronomer,  a  sharp  fellow  in  his 
way,  luckily  bethought  himself  of  the  notable  expe- 
dient of  looking  for  the  missing  locks  in  the  heavens, 
where,  sure  enough,  he  beheld  them  quite  plain,  the 
same  having  been  "  translated"  to  that  exalted  posi- 


tion  by  the  gods,  evidently  on  account  of  their 
surpassing  loveliness.  The  laureate  of  the  Egyptian 
court,  Callimachus,  wrote  a  poem  thereon.  The 
"delicate"  flattery  succeeded  to  the  fullest  extent; 
the  queen  was  more  than  satisfied,  and  the  Coma 
Berenices  shines  down  on  us  to  the  present  day ! 
The  catalogue  of  stars  which  forms  part  of  the 
famous  Almagest  of  Ptolemy  of  Alexandria,*  an 
astronomer  who  flourished  in  the  second  century 
after  Christ,  contains  1022  stars,  arranged  in  forty- 
eight  such  constellations.  Although  these  fanciful 
divisions  and  classifications  of  the  stars  are  altogether 
lacking  a  scientific  or  other  practical  and  intelli- 
gible basis,  and  would  seem,  as  Sir  John  Herschel 
truly  and  pertinently  observes,  to  have  been  pur- 
posely named  and  delineated  to  cause  as  much 
confusion  as  possible,  yet  the  general  convenience 
which  they  afford  is  so  great,  and  the  stars  have  in 
process  of  time  become  so  intensely  identified  with 
their  names,  that  they  have  for  ages  been  permitted, 
and  must  even  in  our  own  days  still  be  permitted, 
to  retain  them. 

A  much  more  rational  division  of  the  stars,  how- 

*  This  catalogue  of  stars  is  generally  held  to  be  the  most 
ancient  on  record.  However,  this  is  a  popular  error.  An 
earlier  catalogue  had  been  drawn  up,  about  125  B.C.,  by  the 
illustrious  Hipparchus,  the  greatest  astronomer  of  antiquity, 
and,  indeed,  up  to  the  days  of  the  immortal  Kepler.  The 
catalogue  of  Hipparchus  supplied  the  materials  from  which 
Ptolemy  compiled  his.  At  present  there  are  some  130,000 
stars  catalogued ! 


ever,  is  that  into  classes,  according  to  their  appa- 
rent brightness.  These  classes  astronomers  term 
'magnitudes.  The  brightest  stars  are  said  to  be  of 
the  first  magnitude  ;  those  next  in  brightness  of  the 
second  magnitude,  and  so  forth.  The  stars  down  to 
the  sixth  magnitude  are  visible  to  the  naked  eye ; 
it  requires,  however,  tolerably  good  eyes  to  distin- 
guish those  of  the  sixth  magnitude,  even  on  very 
clear  evenings.  For  stars  below  the  sixth  magni- 
tude we  must  have  recourse  to  telescopes ;  with  the 
aid  of  the  most  powerful  of  these  instruments,  we 
can  at  present  discern  stars  down  to  the  twentieth 
magnitude,  and  even  below.  The  number  of  stars  of 
the  first  magnitude  is  very  small,  only  about  20  of 
them  being  counted  in  the  heavens  ;  those  of  the  se- 
cond magnitude  number  65;  of  the  third,  190  ;  of  the 
fourth,  425;  of  the  fifth,  1 1 00  ;  of  the  sixth,  3200; 
of  the  seventh,  13,000;  of  the  eighth,  40,000;  of 
the  ninth,  142,000, — which  gives  a  total  number  of 
200,000  stars  down  to  the  ninth  magnitude.  As  a 
glance  at  these  figures  will  show,  the  numbers  in- 
crease very  rapidly  as  we  descend  in  the  scale  of 
brightness.  To  conceive  a  notion,  still  most  inade- 
quate, however,  of  the  countless  multitudes  of  stars 
that  are  dispersed  through  infinite  space,  we  need 
simply  reflect  that  Sir  William  Herschel,  through 
his  powerful  telescope,  discovered  some  eighteen 
millions  of  stars,  of  an  average  magnitude  between 
the  tenth  and  eleventh,  in  the  milky  way  alone — that 
great  luminous  band  which  stretches  all  across  the 


sky  from  horizon  to  horizon.  What  inconceivable 
numbers  should  we  arrive  at,  were  we  to  go  down  to 
the  twentieth  magnitude  !  or  attempt  to  count  the 
myriads  of  star-clusters  composing  those  "  clouds  of 
suns"  that  are  comprehended  xinder  the  general  name 
of  nebulae*  and  of  which  Sir  "William  and  Sir  John 

*  Sir  William  Herschel  was  enabled,  by  the  powers  of  his 
large  reflecting  telescope,  to  divide  and  arrange  the  nebulous 
masses  of  light  discovered  by  him  in  his  general  sweep  of  the 
northern  heavens  into  the  following  six  classes  : — 1st.  Dis- 
tinct clusters  of  separate  stars  ;  2nd.  Resolvable  nebulae,  or 
such  as,  though  not  distinctly  resolved,  yet  clearly  indicated 
that  their  resolution  might  be  accomplished  by  more  powerful 
optical  instruments.  Most  of  these  have  indeed  now  yielded 
to  the  powers  of  Lord  Rosse's  gigantic  six-feet  reflector  ;  3rd. 
Nebulas  showing  no  trace  of  resolution  in  his  (Sir  William 
Herschel' s)  telescope.  In  some  of  these,  also,  separate  stars 
have  been  detected  by  Lord  Rosse's  telescope,  and  by  the 
great  refractor  of  the  observatory  at  Cambridge,  near 
Boston,  United  States  ;  and  with  every  new  increase  in  the 
dimensions  and  power  of  our  optical  instruments,  we  may 
expect  to  see  these  "  clouds  of  light"  more  and  more  resolved 
into  myriads  upon  myriads  of  separate  stars  ;  4th.  Planetary 
nebulae,  or  such  as  have  the  appearance  of  planets  ;  5th. 
Stellar  nebulas  ;  and,  6th.  Nebulous  stars,  which,  according 
to  Sir  John  Herschel's  definition,  consist  of  "  a  sharp  and 
brilliant  star,  concentrically  surrounded  by  a  perfectly  circular 
disk  or  atmosphere  of  faint  light,  in  some  cases  dying  away 
insensibly  on  all  sides,  in  others  almost  suddenly  terminated." 
This  may  also  be  the  proper  place  to  make  a  passing  allusion 
to  two  most  remarkable  phenomena  visible  with  the  naked  eye 
in  southern  latitudes,  called  the  Magellanic  Clouds.  They  are 
"  two  cloudy  masses  of  light  of  a  somewhat  oval  shape.  When 
examined  through  powerful  telescopes,  they  are  found  to 


Herschel  have  catalogued  above  4000  !  What  an 
inexhaustible  field  of  speculation  and  conjecture  is 
opened  here  to  the  imagination  !  The  finite  mind 
of  man,  with  its  limited  comprehensive  powers,  is  be- 
wildered and  lost  in  the  interminable  range  of  system 
upon  system,  firmament  upon  firmament,  of  stars, 
each  of  them  a  sun,  and  probably  in  its  sphere  the 
presiding  centre  round  which  planetary  worlds  may 
be  revolving,  the  dwelling-places,  perchance,  of  intel- 
ligences of  an  immeasurably  superior  order  to  ours. 
The  classification  of  stars  into  magnitudes  by 
estimation  of  their  relative  brightness,  although 
unquestionably  much  more  rational  than  the  un- 
meaning division  into  constellations,  is,  however, 
entirely  arbitrary.  As  we  can  only  judge  of  the 
brightness  of  a  star  by  the  total  impression  made 
by  its  light  upon  the  eye,  it  is  quite  evident  that  the 
assumed  magnitude  will  depend,  first,  on  its  distance 
from  us  ;  second,  on  the  absolute  extent  of  its  illu- 
minated surface  ;  third,  on  the  intrinsic  brightness 
of  that  surface ; — and  of  these  data  we  know  nothing, 
or  next  to  nothing.  Up  to  a  recent  period  we  only 
knew  that  the  nearest  fixed  stars  could  not  possibly  be 

be  of  astonishing  complexity  of  constitution,  the  general 
ground  of  them  consisting  of  large  tracts  and  patches  of  nebu- 
losity in  every  stage  of  resolution,  and  of  clustering  groups, 
interspersed  with  numerous  nebulae,  globular  clusters  in  every 
stage  of  condensation,  and  objects  of  a  nebulous  character 
quite  peculiar,  and  having  no  analogy  in  any  other  part  of 
the  heavens." 


placed  at  a  distance  so  small  as  19,200,000,000,000 
miles  from  the  sun ;  but  certain  most  admirable 
observations  and  measuriugs,  made  by  the  illustrious 
Bessel,  have  since  clearly  established  the  astounding 
fact  that  the  fixed  stars  placed  nearest  to  our  solar 
system  are  distant  from  it  some  57,000,000,000,000 
miles — a  distance  utterly  inconceivable  by  the  hu- 
man mind.  Light  travelling,  as  is  well  known,  at  the 
rate  of  192,000  miles  per  second,  it  will  take  a  ray 
from  the  fixed  stars  nearest  to  us  some  9^  years  to 
reach  the  earth  !  But  if  this  nearest  and  compa- 
ratively trifling  distance  is  sufficient  to  appal  the 
human  understanding,  what  shall  we  say  or  think 
of  the  immeasurably  greater  distances  which  separate 
us  from  the  remoter  stars,  and  from  the  most  dis- 
tant visible  nebulae,  whose  light,  it  has  been  calcu- 
lated, will  take  at  least  a  million  years  to  reach  our 
earth  !  To  arrive  at  some  approximate  estimation 
of  the  real  magnitude  of  the  stars,  the  light  which 
they  shed  on  us,  and  the  most  imperfect  and  as  yet 
still  almost  entirely  negative  knowledge  which  we 
have  obtained  respecting  their  distances,  must  be 
our  only  guide.  Now,  direct  photometrical*  experi- 
ments have  shown  that  the  light  of  Sirius,  the  most 
brilliant  of  the  fixed  stars,  is,  at  equal  distances, 
146^  times  more  intense  than  that  of  our  Sun,  and 
that  it  would  accordingly  require  a  collection  of  more 
than  146  suns  to  shed  a  ray  of  light  on  our  earth 

*  Light-measuring. 


like  that  of  Sirius,  supposing  the  two  bodies  to  be 
placed  at  the  same  distance  from  us.* 

Several  among  the  stars  exhibit  the  most  remark- 
able phenomenon  of  a  regular  periodical  increase 
and  diminution  of  lustre,  involving,  in  some  rare 
instances,  an  alternate  total  extinction  and  revival. 
These  are  called  periodical,  or  variable  stars.  One 
of  the  most  remarkable  is  the  star  Omicron,  in  the 
constellation  Cetus,  which  has  a  period  of  334 
days.  It  remains  about  a  fortnight  at  its  great- 
est brightness,  equal  to  a  large  star  of  the  second 
magnitude;  it  then  decreases  during  about  three 
months  until  it  disappears  altogether;  after  remain- 
ing invisible  during  about  five  months,  it  reappears 
again,  and  continues  increasing  in  brilliancy  during 
the  remaining  three  months  of  its  period.  It  shows, 
however,  occasionally  considerable  irregularity  in 
its  phases,  and  has  actually  been  known  on  one 
occasion  to  remain  altogether  invisible  during  more 
than  four  years  (between  October,  1 672,  and  Decem- 
ber, 1676).  Another  remarkable  specimen  of  a 
variable  star  is  Beta,  in  the  constellation  of  Perseus. 
The  whole  period  of  change  of  this  star  is  rather 
less  than  2  days  20  hours  and  49  minutes,  during 
which  time  it  varies  in  brightness  from  the  second 

*  To  realize,  however  so  feebly,  the  idea  of  the  magnitude 
and  intense  luminousness  of  Sirius,  we  need  simply  reflect 
that  the  diameter  of  the  sun  is  885,000  miles,  and  that  the 
light  of  the  latter  is  about  800,000  times  more  intense  and 
brilliant  than  that  of  the  full  moon. 


magnitude  to  the  fourth;  its  changes  are  confined, 
however,  to  a  few  hours,  as  it  continues  for  rather 
more  than  2  days  12  hours  at  its  state  of  greatest 

Stars  have  also  occasionally  appeared  suddenly  in 
various  parts  of  the  heavens,  blazing  forth  for  a 
time  with  extraordinary  lustre,  and  after  remaining 
awhile  apparently  immovable,  have  gradually  de- 
creased in  brightness,  and  finally  altogether  vanished. 
These  are  properly  termed  temporary  stars.  Thus 
there  suddenly  appeared  in  the  time  of  Tycko  Brake, 
(1572,  llth  November),  in  the  constellation  of  Cas- 
siopeia, a  most  lustrous  star,  equalling  Sirius  in 
brightness ;  it  continued  increasing  in  brilliancy  up 
to  December,  1572,  when  it  actually  surpassed 
Jupiter  and  Venus  when  nearest  to  the  earth,  and 
was  visible  at  mid-day.  From  this  period  forward 
it  began  to  diminish  rapidly,  and  in  March,  1574, 
it  had  completely  disappeared  from  the  heavens. 
Another  equally  brilliant  star  burst  forth  on  the 
10th  October,  1604,  in  the  constellation  of  Serpeu- 
tarius,  and  continued  visible  till  October,  1605. 
The  fact  of  the  sudden  appearance  and  subsequent 
disappearance  of  such  temporary  stars  affords  an 
irrefragable  indication  that  there  must  exist  also  in 
space  immense  dark  bodies,  absolutely  invisible  to 
us,  and  of  which  accordingly  we  cannot  possibly 
have  any  knowledge,  as  light  is  the  only  means  of 
communication  between  the  stars  and  the  earth. 

There  remains  now  for  us  still  to  consider  another 


marvel  of  the  heavens — the  double  and  multiple  stars. 
The  telescope  has  revealed  to  us  that  several  thou- 
sands of  stars  which  appear  single  to  the  naked  eye, 
consist  in  reality  of  two  or  more  luminous  bodies 
placed  in  close  proximity  to  each  other;  the  obser- 
vations, and  researches  made  principally  by  Sir 
William  and  Sir  John  Herschel,  Sir  James  South, 
and  the  great  Russian  astronomer  Struve,  have 
placed  it  beyond  doubt  that  the  proximity  of  these 
stars  to  each  other  is  by  no  means  accidental,  but 
that  they  are  physically  connected  together  by  the 
tie  of  gravity,  and  revolve  round  each  other  as  the 
planets  do  round  the  sun,  and  in  obedience  to  the 
same  law  of  attraction  and  gravitation  which 
governs  the  motions  of  the  solar  system.  Many  of 
the  double  stars  of  unequal  magnitude  exhibit  the 
beautiful  phenomenon  of  complementary  colours. 
Thus,  if  the  larger  star  be  of  a  ruddy  or  orange  hue, 
the  smaller  one  will  appear  blue  or  green;  if  the 
larger  star  appear  yellow,  the  smaller  will  appear 
blue;  if  the  light  of  the  brighter  star  incline  to 
crimson,  that  of  the  other  will  incline  to  green.  In 
connexion  with  this  subject  we  may  here  remark, 
that  in  many  parts  of  the  heavens  isolated  stars 
have  been  observed  of  a  red  colour,  almost  as  deep 
as  blood. 

Thus,  Arcturus,  Aldebaran  (in  Taurus),  Antares 

(in  the  Scorpion),  are  red  stars ;  and  what  is  more 

curious  still,  tiirius,   whose  light  is  now,  and  has 

been  for  several  centuries,  of  the  purest  white,  is 



mentioned  by  Ptolemy  and  all  other  astronomers  of 
antiquity  as  a  red  star.  Lyra,  Cygnus,  Cor  Leonis, 
Virgo,  are  white  stars.  Canis  Minor,  Aquila,  the 
Polar  Star,  and  the  star  Beta,  in  Ursa  Minor,  shed  a 
yellow  light.  In  certain  nebulae  all  the  suns  are  of 
the  same  colour,  blue  for  instance;  whilst  in  the 
nebulae  of  Lacaille,  near  the  Southern  Cross,  power- 
ful telescopes  reveal  to  the  delighted  eye.  more  than 
a  hundred  differently  coloured  stars — red,  green, 
blue,  and  of  a  greenish  blue. 

Thus  far  have  we  winged, our  daring  flight  to  the 
utmost  confines  of  the  visible  heavens,  to  the  Ultima 
Thule  of  the  starry  world.  But  beyond,  into  the 
endless  realms  of  space,  we  may  not  soar.  Here 
Almighty  wisdom  has  fixed  a  barrier,  sealed  to  the 
finite  intellect  of  man.  The  superior  intelligences 
of  higher  spheres  may  perchance  pass  beyond  into 
the  immensity  of  God's  creation,  to  stand  in  their 
turn  on  the  confines  of  another  immensity,  into 
which  even  they  may  not  enter — and  so  on  in  end- 
less succession. 

Yerily,  verily,  inconceivable  and  ineffable  is  the 
magnitude  of  the  works  of  the  Almighty.  A  flight 
through  space?  No,  no,  not  through  space;  ay, 
not  even  yet  towards  the  threshold  of  space ! 

Sale  of  a  Comet. 

I  could  a  Tale  unfold." — Hamlet. 

WHAT  I  am  1  What  I  am  made  of?  What  class  or 
family  of  celestial  bodies  do  I  belong  to  ?  How  many 
there  are  of  us  1  Where  do  we  come  from  1  Where 
are  we  going  to  ?  What  offices  do  we  perform — 
what  purpose  subserve  in  the  great  economy  of  the 
heavens  ?  Tell  you  all  about  us  1 — Well,  you  are 
inquisitive,  my  little  terrestrial  friends,  and  it  ap- 
pears to  me,  a  little  overmuch  so  ;  and  small  infor- 
mation, I  trow,  will  you  get  out  of  me  on  most  of 
these  points.  Still,  I  cannot  but  admire  the  indo- 
mitable perseverance  with  which  you  are  prying 
into  the  abyss  of  space,  seeking  to  fathom  the  secrets 
of  the  universe  ;  and  although  some  of  you  have  of 
late  rather  offended  the  dignity  of  the  great  family 
to  which  I  belong,  denying  us  even  the  possession 
of  anything  like  a  substantial  body, — calling  us 
"visible  nothings" — affirming  that  they  know  all 
about  us,  that  they  can  look  right  through  us,  and 
giving  us  somewhat  plainly  to  understand  that  they 
regard  us  very  much  in  the  light  of  exploded 
humbugs,*  I  yet  will  bear  no  malice,  and  will  en- 

*  M.  Babinet,   a  distinguished  French  philosopher,  in  his 
"  Etudes  et  Lectures  sur  les  Sciences  d1  Observation,"  is  indeed 

198  A   TALE   OF   A   COMET. 

deavour,  not,  indeed,  to  satisfy  your  curiosity  in  all 
matters  concerning  me  and  my  brethren,  but  to  give 
you  some  few  scraps  of  information  and  stray  hints 
about  xis,  leaving  you  to  make  the  best  use  of  them 
you  may,  in  your  interminable  cruise  on  the  endless 
sea  of  speculation. 

Well,  then,  I  am  one  of  a  most  numerous  family. 
Johannes  Kepler — one  of  those  bright  intellectual 
stars  that  adorn  and  illumineyour  microscopic  miteof 
a  sphere,  and  render  it  interesting  even  to  the  giants 
of  creation — declared  that  "  there  are  more  comets 
in  space  than  fishes  in  the  ocean."  A.  kindred  spirit, 
a  Kepler  of  the  present  age — Arago — has  calculated 
our  number  at  some  three  and  a  half  millions  at 
the  lowest  computation,  and  possibly  twice  as  many. 
We  are  of  all  sizes  and  magnitudes,  from  the  in- 
credibly immense  down  to  the  minutest  telescopic. 

rather  hard  upon  the  poor  comets.  He  calls  them  mere  gather- 
ings of  vapour,  visible  nothings,  devoid  of  all  physical  proper- 
ties, incapable  of  doing  either  good  or  harm,  and  useful 
simply  through  enabling  us  to  verify  Newton's  law  of  attrac- 
tion, and  explore  the  regions  of  heaven  far  beyond  the  limits 
of  the  solar  system.  He  says  science  now  knows  all  about 
them,  and  the  public  have  ceased  taking  the  least  interest  in 
them.  It  would  be  interesting  to  know  whether  M.  Babinet 
has  since  seen  reason  to  modify  this  somewhat  contemp- 
tuous opinion  of  those  "  strange  wanderers  of  the  sky."  Cer- 
tain, however,  it  is,  that  science  confessedly  knows  as  yet 
very  little  about  comets,  and  that  the  apparition  and  passage 
of  Donati's  Comet  in  1858  has  been  narrowly  watched  and 
tracked  with  the  most  eager  curiosity,  and  with  the  most 
lively  interest. 

A   TALE   OF   A   COMET.  199 

I  myself  may  boast  of  a  bulk  exceeding  that  of  the 
sun  in  the  proportion  of  nearly  300  to  1  ;  that  of 
your  planet  in  the  proportion  of  400.000,000  to  1. 
My  brother  of  1811  was  still  larger,  being  about 
600,000,000  times  the  bulk  of  your  earth  !  The 
essential  part  about  us  is  the  nucleus,  which  some- 
times appears  as  a  bright  stellar  point,  and  some- 
times rather  gives  the  notion  of  a  planetary  disc, 
seen  through  a  nebulous  haze.  What  is  generally 
called  our  head,  is  simply  this  nebulous  haze  which 
surrounds  the  nucleus  ;  the  train,  of  illuminated 
vapour  which  is  often,  though  by  no  means  always, 
attached  to  the  head,  is  usually  termed  by  you  the 
tail,  though,  allow  me  to  observe,  rather  improperly, 
since  this  appendage  often  precedes  us  in  our 
motions.  The  inhabitants  of  that  portion  of  your 
sphere  which  is  designated  in  your  maps  by  the 
name  of  China — who,  though  certainly  a  little  pig- 
headed, and  strangely  averse  to  progress  in  arts 
and  sciences,  are  yet  very  careful,  and,  moreover, 
much  more  ancient  observers  of  the  starry  heavens 
than  you  Europeans — have  bestowed  upon  this  occa- 
sional appendage  the  much  more  appropriate  and 
significant  name  of  brush  or  pencil  of  light.  The 
nebulous  haze  which  invariably  surrounds  the 
nucleus  of  members  of  our  family  is  called  the  coma, 
from  a  Greek  word  signifying  hair  ;  some  fancied 
resemblance  of  the  nebulous  matter  composing  this 
coma  and  the  tail,  has  gained  us  the  name  of  comets, 
or  hairy  stars.  Now,  though  rather  put  out  by  M. 

200  A   TALE   OF   A   COMET. 

Babinet's  most  unceremonious  and  very  unhand- 
some statement  respecting  the  extreme  "  flimsi- 
ness"  of  our  material  structure,  I  am  yet  bound 
to  confess  that  there  is,  unfortunately,  a  great  deal 
of  truth  in  it.  Leaving  altogether  out  of  the  ques- 
tion the  physical  constitution  of  what  is  termed 
our  tail,  which  truly  immeasurably  exceeds  in 
tenuity  the  atmosphere  surrounding  your  earth,  I 
must  even  "  plead  guilty"  to  the  charge  of  extreme 
"  light-headedness"  brought  against  us.  I  would 
deny  it  if  I  could,  but  I  know  it  would  be  of  no  use ;  as 
you  are  but  too  well  aware  that  even  the  faintest 
stars  can  often  be  distinctly  seen,  without  any  per- 
ceptible diminution  of  their  lustre,  through  the  very 
centre  of  our  heads,  which,  considering  the  enor- 
mous bulk,  for  instance,  of  my  brother's  head  of 
1811 — exceeding  that  of  your  earth  in  the  propor- 
tion of  4,000,000  to  1— most  clearly  shows  that  the 
matter  composing  it  must  possess  an  extreme  degree 
of  tenuity.  If  additional  proof  were  required  of 
this  patent  fact,  it  might  be  found  in  the  almost 
imperceptible  power  of  attraction  which  we,  even  of 
the  largest  magnitudes,  exercise  upon  Jupiter  and 
other  planets,  or  even  upon  their  satellites,  and 
those  still  smaller  atomic  mites,  the  planetoids,  when 
we  accidentally  cross  them  in  their  orbits.  Jupiter 
more  especially,  who  seems  to  have  a  peculiar  knack 
of  being  always,  somehow  or  other,  in  the  way  of 
some  of  us,  is  not  in  the  least  affected  by  pretty 
near  contact  with  our  immense  bulk,  and  actually 

A   TALE   OF   A   COMET.  201 

often  manages  to  thrust  us  right  out  of  our  orbits — 
a  feat  which  even  the  wretched  little  planetoids,  of 
whom  myriads  might  find  room  in  the  head,  millions 
in  the  tail,  of  one  of  us,  have  sometimes  succeeded  in 
performing.  I  would  not,  however,  have  you  be- 
lieve that  we  are  mere  "  visible  nothings"  —  the 
"  airy  offspring  of  vapour  and  the  sun  ;"  however 
so  attenuated  the  material  composing  us  may  be, 
still  it  is  ponderable  matter ;  and  there  can  be  no 
doubt  but  that  in  some  of  us  at  least,  the  nucleus 
consists  of  a  solid  body  of  appreciable  density,  a 
direct  collision  with  which  it  would  not  be  over  wise 
in  any  planet  to  court.  Not  that  I  want  to  frighten 
you  about  the  possibility  of  such  a  collision  with 
your  earth  ;  your  wise  men  have  cleverly  calculated 
that  there  are  about  300,000,000  chances  against  a 
contingency  of  the  kind.  Moreover,  depend  upon 
it,  none  of  us  is  likely  ever  to  seek  the  chance  of  a 
brush  against  your  earth  or  any  other  planet — and 
that  for  a  sufficient  reason  of  our  own.  You  re- 
member, perhaps,  one  of  your  very  clever  men — 
who,  however,  for  all  that,  are  by  no  means  exempt 
from  occasional  mistakes — Mr.  George  Stephenson, 
whose  genius  has  enabled  you,  poor  little  mites,  to 
crawl  at  a  somewhat  less  snailly  pace  than  of  old 
over  the  surface  of  your  cheese,  once  said,  in  reply  to 
a  question  addressed  to  him  as  to  whether  it  might 
not  be  awkward  if  a  cow  were  to  happen  to  stray  on 
a  line  of  rails,  right  in  the  way  of  a  rapidly-advancing 
train,  "Yes,  very  awkward — for  the  coo!"  Expe- 

202  A   TALE    OF   A   COMET. 

rience  has  since  but  too  often  and  too  clearly  proved 
that  an  event  of  the  kind  may  be  equally  "  awk- 
ward" for  the  train  as  for  the  cow  ;  and  we,  who 
are  much  wiser  in  our  generation,  have  really  110 
notion  of  tempting  the  chances  of  a  collision  that 
might  prove  equally  fatal  to  the  two  bodies. 

I  may  here  briefly  observe,  that  the  material  of 
which  we  are  composed  is  not  luminous  in  itself, 
but  is  illuminated  by  the  sun  of  this,  or,  in  the  case 
of  those  of  us  who  soar  into  the  immensity  of  space, 
some  other  solar  system. 

We  are  most  capricious  and  mutable  in  the  forms 
which  we  assume,  though,  as  a  general  rule,  our 
heads  mostly  affect  the  globular  or  spheroidal  shape. 
The  magnificent  luminous  appendages  or  tails  which 
many  of  \is  proudly  display,  are  sometimes  straight, 
and  sometimes  curved  like  a  scimitar.  With  some 
of  us  this  vapoury  train  of  light  attains  an  immense 
apparent  length.  Thus,  for  instance,  my  brother 
comet  of  1811 — which,  by-the-bye,  when  first  seen, 
possessed  no  visible  tail — speedily  threw  out  a 
luminous  appendage  covering  some  25  degrees  of 
heaven,  or  some  130,000,000  of  miles.  My  own 
tail  stretches  some  11  degrees  beyond  this;  that  of 
my  brother  of  371  B.C.,  Aristotle  tells  you,  occupied 
some  60  degrees  of  the  heavens ;  that  of  the  Comet 
of  1680  covered  between  70  and  90  degrees;  and 
that  of  the  Comet  of  1618  is  stated  to  have  extended 
to  1 04  degrees  in  length ! 

Some  of  us  exhibit  more  than  one  tail.      My 

A   TALE   OF   A   COMET.  203 

brother  of  1744,  for  instance,  had  no  less  than  six, 
spread  out  like  an  immense  fan,  extending  to  a  dis- 
tance of  nearly  30  degrees  in  length.  I  have  just 
now  mentioned  that  my  brother  of  1811  was  not 
at  first  provided  with  an  appendage  of  luminous 
vapour.  This  is  often  the  case  with  us.  Thus  the 
great  Comet  of  1843  showed  at  its  first  appearance 
simply  a  nucleus,  surrounded  by  a  coma;  but  it 
speedily  set  about  supplying  the  deficiency,  and  in 
less  than  twenty  days  managed  to  throw  out  a  most 
magnificent  tail,  measuring  two  hundred  millions 
of  miles,  which  was  generated,  accordingly,  at  the 
rate  of  10,000,000  miles  a  day,  the  matter  composing 
it  being  propelled  through  space  with  a  velocity  of 
115  miles  per  second,  which  is  nearly  six  times  that 
of  the  earth  in  its  orbit,  and  two  hundred  and  fifty 
times  greater  than  that  of  a  cannon-ball ! 

You  are  already  aware,  so  I  need  hardly  tell  you, 
that  we  are  all  of  our  family  most  eccentric  in 
our  motions.  To  superficial  observation  we  would 
indeed  seem  to  be  careering  with  mad  capricious- 
ness  along  the  great  highway  of  space.  But  if  you 
watch  our  motions  more  closely,  you  will  find  that 
there  is  the  strictest  method  in  this  apparent  mad- 
ness of  our  movements,  and  that  we  obey  the  same 
universal  law  of  attraction  and  gravitation  as  the 
other  celestial  bodies — some  of  us  moving  about  the 
sun  in  parabolic  orbits,  or  at  least  in  ellipses  of 
various  degrees  of  eccentricity,  and  returning  in 
determinate  periods  in  the  same  path  (unless  dis- 

204  A   TALE   OP  A  COMET. 

turbed) ;  others  running  off  in  hyperbolic  orbits,  to 
visit  other  systems  in  the  immensity  of  space.* 
Most  of  us  come,  in  fact,  into  this  solar  system  from 
parts  of  the  universe  extending  to  enormous  dis- 
tances beyond  its  limits,  and  after  approaching 
more  or  less  near  to  the  sun,  start  off  again  on  our 
journey  to  distances  not  less  remote.  I  may,  per- 
haps, be  permitted  here  to  observe  that,  with  all  due 
deference  to  M.  Babinet,  and  his  somewhat  con- 
temptuous opinion  of  us  and  our  uses,  I  can  safely 
affirm  that  we  subserve  some  better  and  higher 
purpose  in  the  great  economy  of  the  universe  than 
enabling  your  astronomers  to  verify  certain  natural 
laws,  and  to  pry  into  the  mysteries  of  heaven.  You 
will  not,  of  course,  expect  me  to  tell  you  what  these 
purposes  may  happen  to  be — depend  upon  it,  you 
will  find  this  out  all  in  good  time,  by  the  unaided 
efforts  of  that  marvellous  intelligence  with  which 
it  has  pleased  the  Almighty  to  endow  you.  This 
much,  however,  you  may  take  for  granted  even 
now,  that  we  serve  as  means  of  communication 
between  system  and  system.  May  it  not  be,  also, 
that  we  serve  to  gather  in  our  path  the  detritus 
of  old  worlds,  to  be  moulded  hereafter  into  new 

*  We  must  here  assume  the  reader  to  know  that  an  ellipse 
whose  major  axis  is  of  infinite  length,  is  said  to  degenerate 
into  a  parabola.  The  parabola  is  that  conic  section  which 
forms  the  limit  between  the  ellipse  on  the  one  hand,  which 
returns  into  itself,  and  the  hyperbola  on  the  other,  which 
runs  out  to  infinity. 

A   TALE   OF   A   COMET.  205 

spheres  ?  — that  we  serve  to  cany  to  the  suns  of  this 
and  other  systems  the  ardent  fires  with  which  we 
get  impregnated  in  our  passage  near  Sirius  and 
myriads  of  other  suns  1 — that  we  serve  to  waft 
beings  that  have  passed  their  probation,  from  worlds 
immeasurably  brighter  than  yours,  to  spheres  infi- 
nitely more  glorious  than  theirs  1  What  a  bound- 
less field  of  speculation  is  open  here  to  the  human 
mind  ! — of  exalted  speculation,  such  as  may  befit  the 
grandeur  of  the  subject,  and  the  vast  intellectual 
powers  of  man,  and  may  henceforward  take  the 
place  of  the  absurd  notions  of  our  influence  for 
good  or  evil  to  which  the  superstitious  feelings  of 
mankind  in  the  darker  ages,  and  even  in  more 
modern  and  "  enlightened"  times,  had  given  birth. 
It  seems  hardly  credible  now  that  our  apparition 
in  the  heavens  should  ever,  at  any  period  of  time, 
have  been  almost  universally  regarded  with  feelings 
of  awe  and  terror,  and  that  to  us  should  have  been 
ascribed  the  most  malignant  influences,  and  a  most 
astonishing  diversity  of  effects,  physical,  physiolo- 
gical, social,  and  political.  And  passing  strange 
that  even  men  like  Johannes  Kepler  should  not 
have  been  entirely  free  from  this  weakness  !  Seneca 
alone  among  ancient  philosophers  dared  to  oppose 
his  powerful  logic  to  the  superstitious  ideas  which 
his  age,  and  the  ages  that  had  preceded  it,  enter- 
tained with  regard  to  our  apparition  in  the  heavens. 
He,  that  marvellous  double  and  counterpart  of 
the  great  British  philosopher  of  a  later  period — 

206  A    TALE    OF   A    COMET. 

Bacon,  equally  wise,  equally  mean — declared  that 
we  moved  regularly  in  orbits  fixed  by  natural  laws, 
and  expressed  his  conviction  that  posterity  would 
one  day  stand  aghast  at  the  blindness  of  his  age, 
which  could  ignore  or  disregard  facts  so  clear  and 

One  of  the  brightest  of  our  family — so  bright, 
indeed,  as  to  be  plainly  visible  in  the  daytime, 
happening  to  make  its  appearance  in  the  year  44  or 
43  B.C.,  a  short  time  before  or  after  the  assassination 
of  Csesar — was  held  to  have,  if  not  actually  brought 
about  the  death  of  the  aspiring  dictator,  at  all 
events  predicted  or  attended  it — as  if  the  heavens 
would  be  likely  to  take  an  interest  in  the  life  or 
death  of  such  a  "  thing  of  blood  and  mire !" 

Another  Comet — the  first  whose  orbit  was  calcu- 
lated, in  1682,  by  your  illustrious  Edmund  Halley, 
whose  name  it  bears,  and  will  hand  down  to  the 
remotest  ages — had,  at  one  of  its  former  appearances, 
in  June,  1456,  spread  terror  throughout  Europe. 
It  was  regarded  as  a  most  powerful  ally  of  the 
Turkish  Sultan,  Mohammed  II.,  who  had  taken 
Constantinople,  and  threatened  to  overrun  Christian 
Europe  with  his  victorious  armies.  Pope  Calixtus 
II.  thought  it  high  time  to  come  to  the  aid  of  his 
sorely-pressed  flock,  and  launched  the  thunders  of 
the  Vatican  against  the  celestial  visitor,  who  there- 
upon (in  due  course  of  time)  disappeared  from  the 
heavens ;  the  Pope,  in  order  to  perpetuate  this 
startling  manifestation  of  the  power  of  the  Church, 

A   TALE   OF   A   COMET.  207 

decreeing  and  ordaining  the  bells  to  be  rung  at  noon, 
a  custom  observed  to  the  present  day  in  Catholic 
countries.  What  a  curious  commentary  this  doth 
afford  on  the  "infallibility"  which  the  Bishops  of 
Rome  dare  arrogate  to  themselves  ! 

Another  of  my  brethren — the  very  one,  in  fact, 
whom  you  have  been  so  anxiously  expecting  to  reap- 
pear ever  since  February,  1848,  but  who,  according  to 
Bomme's  calculation,  will  only  rejoice  you  sometime 
about  I860  by  a  sight  of  his  splendid  dimensions — 
terrified  the  Emperor  Charles  V.,  in  1556,  into  con- 
summating the  abdication  of  all  his  earthly  crowns, 
and  retirement  to  a  monk's  cell  in  the  cloister  of  St. 
Justus,  in  Spain,  where  he  who,  in  the  pride  and 
arrogance  of  power,  had  sought,  though  vainly 
indeed,  to  make  the  millions  who  obeyed  his  sceptre 
conform  to  his  own  most  narrow  and  bigoted  reli- 
gious creed,  and  in  his  presumptuous  vanity  had 
imagined  that  Heaven's  Great  Lord  had  condescended 
to  send  a  comet  by  way  of  special  messenger  to 
him,  discovered,  though  unfortunately  rather  too 
late,  that  he  could  not  even  make  two  clocks  strike 
alike  and  at  the  same  time,  and  felt  humbled  to 
the  dust  thereat. 

But  enough  of  these  instances  of  the  presumption 
and  folly  of  your  kind, — which  yet  are,  perhaps, 
less  insulting,  after  all,  to  the  dignity  of  our  family 
than  the  notion  that  we  occasionally  take  a  delight 
in  killing  cats,  as  the  splendid  Comet  of  1668  was 
accused  of  doing  in  Westphalia ;  or  blinding  flies, 

208  A   TALE   OF   A    COMET. 

destroying  wasps,  and  cursing  poor  Whitechapel 
shoemakers  with  four  babies  at  a  birth  !  or  destroy- 
ing cities  by  an  earthquake,  knocking  down  steeple 
clocks  in  Scotland,  and  indulging  in  other  undignified 
vagaries  of  the  kind  ! 

I  have  some  personal  reason,  if  I  may  be  allowed 
the  expression,  to  take  a  special  interest  in  the  fair 
fame  of  the  Comet  of  1668,  as  there  would  appear 
to  be  some  chance  that  I  may  in  the  end  turn  out 
to  be  identical  with  that  splendid  object,  to  whom 
a  period  of  16  years  has  been  assigned,  and  whose 
last  recorded  appearance  bears  date  1843.  Mind,  I 
do  not  mean  to  assei't  anything  positive  about  this 
matter,  which  resolves  itself  simply  into  a  question 
of  identity.  I  know  that  there  is  an  individual  of 
your  species  waiting  for  me  now  at  the  Cape  of 
Good  Hope,  who  will  bring  his  powerful  reflector, 
and  equally  powerful  intellect,  to  bear  upon  me  ; 
and  you  may  well  afford  to  wait  till  next  spring, 
when  you  will  most  probably  learn  from  that 
quarter  whether  lam  the  real  Simon  Pure  of  1668, 
with  a  period  of  1 6  years,  or  have  a  period  of  some- 
thing like  150  times  as  long.  At  all  events,  surely, 
where  learned  astronomers  disagree,  you  would  not 
ask  a  poor  Comet  like  me  to  decide  ! 

Even  so  recently  as  1829,  a  most  learned  Eng- 
lish medical  practitioner,  a  Mr.  T.  Forster,  made 
a  fierce  onslaught  on  the  character  of  Comets 
in  general,  to  whom  he  ascribes  all  imaginable  ma- 
lignant influences,  such  as  epidemic  diseases  of  all 

A  TALE   OF   A   COMET.  209 

kinds,     earthquakes,    volcanic     eruptions,     floods, 
droughts,  and  famines ! 

Now,  you  may  believe  me,  my  little  friends,  we 
are  entirely  innocent  of  these  dreadful  charges 
brought  against  us  ;  and  I  grieve  to  add,  we  cannot 
properly  claim  credit  either  for  the  glorious  seasons 
that  will  occasionally  coincide  with  our  appearance, 
and  for  the  splendid  harvests  of  corn  and  wine  pro- 
duced therein.  It  would  unquestionably  have  been 
a  proud  distinction  for  me  to  have  had  my  name  asso- 
ciated, as  was  that  of  my  illustrious  predecessor  of 
1811,  with  the  wine  of  this  most  splendid  and 
abundant  year  1858  ;  but  truth  will  not  be  trifled 
with  :  careful  statistical  researches  and  comparisons 
of  thermal  and  cometary  observations,  extending 
over  a  period  of  a  century,  have  but  too  fully  esta- 
blished the  conclusion  that  we  can  claim  no  influ- 
ence whatsoever  on  the  temperature  of  the  seasons. 
It  is  your  Mr.  Arago  who  has  dealt  us  this  heavy 
blow  and  great  discouragement. 

I  will  now,  in  conclusion,  add  a  few  more  words 
about  some  of  the  most  remarkable  of  my  brethren, 
whose  periods  have  been  fixed  with  more  or  less 

The  most  remarkable  of  these  is  the  great  Comet 
known  by  .the  name  of  Halley's,  from  the  -circum- 
stance of  that  illustrious  geometer,  as  has  already 
been  mentioned,  having  predicted  its  return.  The 
immortal  Newton  having  demonstrated  the  possi- 
bility of  any  conic  section  whatever  being  described 

210  A   TALE   OP   A   COMET. 

about  the  sun,  by  a  body  revolving  under  the  domi- 
nion of  the  law  of  gravitation,  applied  his  theory  to 
the  great  Comet  of  1680  with  the  most  complete 
success.  He  ascertained  that  this  Comet  described 
about  the  sun  as  its  focus  an  elliptic  orbit  of  such 
exceeding  eccentricity  as  to  degenerate  into  a  pai-a- 
bola,  and  that  in  this  orbit  the  areas  described 
about  the  sun  were,  as  in  the  planetary  ellipses, 
proportional  to  the  times.  Two  years  after,  in  the 
year  1682,  Halley  applied  the  principles  of  the  New- 
tonian theory  to  cometary  bodies,  and  calculated 
thereby  the  orbits  of  several  ancient  comets,  which 
led  him  to  the  discovery  of  a  remarkable  coincidence 
in  the  elements  of  the  orbits  of  certain  comets 
which  had  been  observed  at  nearly  equal  intervals 
of  time  in  1531,  1607,  and  1682.  After  mature  con- 
sideration, he  concluded  that  these  comets  must  be 
identical,  returning  at  certain  fixed  periods,  and 
ventured  to  predict  another  return  about  the  year 
1759.  Clairaut,  an  eminent  mathematician  of  the 
period,  undertook  to  calculate  the  delay  which  the 
return  of  this  comet  would  experience  from  the 
disturbing  influence  exercised  upon  its  orbit  by  the 
larger  planets,  and  fixed  the  return  for  spring,  1759. 
True  to  the  appointment,  the  Comet  made  its  re- 
appearance on  the  12th  of  March  of  that  yeai*,  and 
once  more  76  years  after — in  October,  1835 — as  had 
been  calculated  by  several  eminent  mathematicians. 
The  great  Comet  which  appeared  in  1680  is  sup- 
posed to  have  a  period  of  575  years,  and  to  be  iden- 

A   TALE   OF   A   COMET.  211 

tical  with  the  Comets  seen  in  1105  and  575,  and 
also  with  that  seen  in  44  or  43  B.C.,  of  which 
mention  has  already  been  made. 

Another  great  Comet — the  one  which,  as  I  have 
told  you,  frightened  poor  Charles  V.  in  1566,  and  is 
expected  to  reappear  in  1860 — is  held  to  be  identical 
with  certain  comets  observed  in  104,  683,  975,  and 
1264,  to  which  latter  attaches  the  reputation  of 
having  presaged  the  death  of  Pope  Urban  IV.,  who 
died  on  the  2nd  October,  just  when  that  Comet  was 
making  its  last  appearance  in  the  heavens. 

Another,  again,  which  appeared  in  1661,  is  sup- 
posed to  be  the  same  as  that  seen  in  243,  891, 1145, 
1402,  and  1532. 

The  Comet  discovered  by  Olbers,  in  1815,  in  the 
constellation  Musca,  has  a  period  of  74  years. 
Some  of  our  family  revolve  in  comparatively  short 
periods  round  the  sun.  One  of  the  most  remark- 
able of  these  is  the  one  called  Encke's  Comet — so 
named  from  Professor  Encke,  x>f  Berlin,  who  first 
ascertained  its  periodical  return.  This  Comet  re- 
volves round  the  sun  in  the  short  period  of  3g 
years;  it  has  been  observed  in  1786,  1795,  1805, 
1818,  and  regularly  ever  after,  there  being,  how- 
ever, a  very  strange  and  anomalous  circumstance 
connected  with  it — viz.,  that  its  periods  of  revolution 
are  found  to  be  successively  and  equably  shorter,  a 
circumstance  which  forebodes  its  ultimate  fall  into 
the  sun,  unless  it  should  previously  be  dissipated 
altogether — a  termination  of  its  career  by  no  means 

212  A   TALE    OF   A    COMET. 

unlikely,  and  to  which,  many  members  of  our  family 
are  liable. 

Another  Comet  of  short  period  is  the  one  called 
after  Mr.  Biela,  of  Josephstadt,  who,  at  its  appa- 
rition in  1826,  identified  it  with  Comets  that  had 
appeared  in  1772  and  1805.  The  time  of  its  revo- 
lution is  about  6 1  years.  It  has  since  been  observed 
in  1832,  1839,  1845-6,  and  1852— in  the  two  last 
years  as  a  double  Comet.* 

A  Comet  discovered  by  M.  Faye,  in  1843,  describes 
an  elliptic  orbit  in  a  period  of  7|  years,  and  has  been 
observed  on  its  return  in  1850. 

Two  other  Comets — the  one  discovered  by  De  Vico, 
in  1844,  the  other  by  Brorsen,  in  1846 — have  each  a 
period  of  about  5^  years.  Another,  finally,  disco- 
vered by  d' Arrest,  in  1851,  in  the  constellation 
Pisces,  has  a  period  of  7  years. 

Before  I  take  my  final  leave  of  you,  1  may  still 

*  At  the  return  of  Biela's  Comet,  in  1845-6,  a  most  sin- 
gular phenomenon  was  observed.  The  Comet  appeared  at 
first,  as  usual,  as  a  single  body  ;  but  on  its  approach  towards 
perihelion  it  was,  on  the  1 3th  January,  1846,  for  the  first  time, 
seen  to  be  attended  by  another  Comet  considerably  fainter,  at 
a  distance  of  about  2'.  This  distance  continued  steadily  to 
increase,  with  a  corresponding  change  in  the  comparative 
brightness  of  the  two  Comets,  till  the  companion  Comet  be- 
came as  bright  as  the  original,  and  subsequently  brighter, 
exhibiting  a  star-like  nucleus  ;  a  very  short  time  after,  how- 
ever, the  original  Comet  gained  again  in  brilliancy  on  its 
companion,  which  finally  disappeared  some  time  before  the 
other  ceased  to  be  observed. 

A   TALE    OF   A    COMET.  213 

mention  that,  though  now  universally  known  as 
"  Donati's  Comet," — Professor  Donati,  of  Florence, 
enjoying  the  credit  and  reputation  of  having 
"sighted"  me  first,  on  the  2nd  June,  1858 — a  recla- 
mation has  been  put  in  by  Dr.  Winneke,  of  Bonn, 
who  declares  having  discovered  me  as  early  as  the 
9th  March ;  and  by  Father  Neslhuber,  Director  of 
the  Kremsmiinster  Observatory,  who  professes  to 
have  seen  me  in  the  constellation  Aquila,  on  the 
19th  March.  Dr.  Bruhns,  of  Berlin,  has  calculated 
that  I  complete  my  revolution  round  the  sun  in  an 
eccentric  ellipse,  in  a  period  of  2,100  years;  my 
greatest  distance  from  the  sun,  which  it  will  take 
me  1,050  years  to  reach,  being  about  31,506,000,000 

And  now,  farewell !  till  our  next  meeting.  Me- 
thinks  I  hear  you  exclaim,  that  this  is  scant  and 
meagre  information  indeed.  Patience,  my  little 
friends ;  at  my  next  appearance — whenever  that  may 
be — I  trust  I  may  be  in  a  position  to  tell  a  different 
and  more  circumstantial  and  satisfactory  "  Tale  of  a 


"  Nor  is  the  stream 
Of  purest  crystal,  nor  the  lucid  air, 
Though  one  transparent  vacancy  it  seems, 
Void  of  their  unseen  people." — THOMSON. 

THE  revelations  of  the  telescope  are  not  more 
astounding  than  those  of  the  microscope.  The 
human  eye  can  only  range  over  a  finite  portion  of 
the  universe,  but  aided  by  these  magic  instruments 
its  sphere  of  research  is  greatly  augmented.  The 
one  familiarizes  the  mind  with  the  rolling  orbs  of 
the  infinitely  distant  world,  while  the  other  enables 
us  to  examine  the  marvellous  inhabitants  of  that 
which  is  infinitely  minute. 

Single  microscopes,*  in  the  form  of  glass  globes 
containing  water,  were  used  by  the  ancients,  and  in 
course  of  time  these  crystal  bubbles  gave  place 
to  hemispheres  of  glass,  and  these  in  their  turn  to 
lenses.  The  compound  microscope,  consisting  of 

*  The  term  microscope  is  derived  from  two  Greek  words, 
the  first  signifying  a  small  object,  and  the  latter  to  see  or 


two  lenses  placed  at  a  distance,  so  that  the  one  next 
the  eye  magnifies  the  enlarged  image  of  any  object 
placed  in  front  of  the  other,  was  invented  by  a 
spectacle-maker  at  Middleburg,  in  Holland,  about 
the  year  1590.  This  Dutch  microscope,  rudely 
formed  of  two  lenses  and  a  wooden  tube,  was  the 
germ  of  the  beautiful  and  complex  instrument  of 
modern  times.  Let  us  now  peep  through  this 
wondrous  spy-glass  into  the  invisible  world. 

In  a  single  drop  of  stagnant  water  we  may  dis- 
cover a  world  of  marvellous  creatures,  whose  eccen- 
tric forms  baffle  description.  In  some  of  these  tiny 
monsters  it  is  not  easy  to  detect  any  definite  shape, 
as  their  bodies  are  destitute  of  any  solid  support, 
and  seem  to  be  composed  of  gelatinous  matter, 
which  may  take  almost  any  figure.  In  others, 
there  is  still  a  considerable  variety  in  the  forms 
assumed  by  the  same  individual  under  different 
circumstances,  but  the  prevailing  shape  can  be  re- 
cognised. In  others,  again,  the  body,  although 
still  unprotected  by  any  firm  envelope,  appears  to 
undergo  little  change  in  figure,  except  when  affected 
by  temporary  pressure.  But  there  are  many  that 
cannot  be  influenced  even  by  pressure,  their  soft 
bodies  being  inclosed  in  coats  of  flinty  mail.  All 
these  creatures  move  about  in  the  water  with  great 
rapidity,  yet  they  have  neither  arms,  legs,  nor  fins. 
Their  movements  are  performed  by  means  of  pecu- 
liar processes  called  cilia,  which  resemble  minute 
hairs.  So  active  are  these  cilia,  and  such  restless 


little  fellows  are  those  to  whom  they  belong,  that 
it  is  impossible  to  conceive  a  more  animated  scene 
than  that  presented  to  the  eye  of  the  microscopic 
observer  in  the  examination  of  a  drop  of  water. 

The  waters  of  the  earth  teem  with  these  minute 
forms  of  existence;  but  as  their  presence  was  first 
detected  in  certain  infusions  of  vegetable  matter, 
they  were  named  Infusoria — a  term  which  they  have 
been  allowed  to  retain,  though  it  is  now  known 
that  their  sphere  of  existence  embraces  all  the 
aqueous  portions  of  the  globe.  We  have  said  that 
their  quaint  forms  baffle  description;  but  we  will 
endeavour  to  give  the  reader  some  idea,  however 
inadequate,  of  one  or  two  individuals  of  the  infu- 
sorial race. 

The  smallest  and  the  most  active  members  of  this 
immense  family  are  the  Monads,  which  so  thickly 
populate  the  invisible  world,  that  Ehrenberg  has 
declared  that  a  selected  drop  of  water  may  actually 
contain  as  many  as  there  are  human  beings  upon 
the  surface  of  the  great  globe  itself !  These  minute 
creatures  are  always  in  motion,  and  may  be  seen 
bustling  about  in  every  part  of  the  drop — to  them  a 
mighty  sea — as  though  their  health  and  happiness 
depended  on  constant  exercise. 

The  little  creatures,  or  rather  the  congeries  of  crea- 
tures, called  the  Volvox,  and  formerly  known  as  the 
globe  animalcule,  is  not  the  least  remarkable  of  this 
group.  It  consists  of  a  number  of  monads,  invested 
by  a  common  envelope,  each  individual  maintaining 


in  some  mysterious  way  an  organic  connexion  with 
its  companions.  It  is  not  easy  to  understand  how 
a  number  of  distinct  beings  can  move  in  such  per- 
fect unison  as  to  be  frequently  mistaken  for  a  single 
animalcule.  Yet  so  it  is;  this  group  of  monads 
rolls  round  and  round  the  drop  of  water,  with  the 
peculiar  revolving  or  spinning  movement  which  has 
given  rise  to  its  distinctive  appellation  of  volvox, 
just  as  if  it  were  a  simple  being.  Six  or  eight 
young  volvoces  may  generally  be  seen  through  the 
transparent  envelope,  from  which  they  make  their 
escape  when  sufficiently  developed  to  become  the 
envelopes  of  new  broods. 

The  Rotifer  a  form  a  class  even  more  interesting 
than  the  monads.  The  animals  of  this  class  have 
usually  an  elongated  form,  and  are  perfectly  sym- 
metrical on  the  two  sides.  Near  the  mouth  we 
observe  one  or  two  rows  of  delicate  cilia,  which  are 
frequently  arranged  in  a  circular  manner;  and  when 
they  are  in  motion,  an  appearance  of  revolving 
wheels  is  produced,  from  which  the  class  derives  its 
appellation.  The  common  wheel  animalcule  was 
long  a  puzzle  to  philosophers,  who  were  forced  to 
invent  many  marvellous  hypotheses  to  explain  the 
motion  of  the  pair  of  paddle-wheels  with  which 
this  little  creature  is  furnished.  We  must  not 
always  believe  our  own  eyes — for  the  two  little 
wheels  on  the  anterior  part  of  the  body  of  this  roti- 
fer, which  seem  to  be  always  turning  round  on  their 
axes,  are  really  stationary.  The  motion  is  now 


allowed  to  be  an  optical  illusion  produced  by  the 
motion  of  the  two  circular  rows  of  cilia  on  the  fore 
part  of  the  body.  These  cilia  lash  the  surrounding 
waters  into  a  miniature  whirlpool,  into  which  innu- 
merable animalcules  are  drawn,  to  be  swallowed  by 
the  voracious  rotifer,  who  is  provided  with  a  for- 
midable set  of  crushing  teeth,  and  a  most  efficient 
digestive  apparatus.  The  movements  of  these 
strange  animals  are  active  and  varied.  Sometimes 
they  will  attach  themselves  by  the  tail  to  a  fixed 
object,  and  set  their  cilia  in  motion  to  entrap  un- 
wary monads ;  then  they  will  pack  up  their  wheels 
and  swim  freely  through  the  water,  or  crawl  along 
a  solid  surface  after  the  manner  of  a  leech.  Some 
of  the  rotifera  may  be  completely  dried  up  and  pre- 
served for  an  indefinite  time,  without  the  loss  of  their 
vitality.  But  put  one  of  these  withered  animal- 
cules in  water,  and  in  an  hour's  time  you  will  see 
him  return  to  life,  though  he  may  have  been  appa- 
rently dead  for  many  years !  The  multiplication  of 
the  rotifera  is  extremely  rapid,  twenty-four  hours 
being  a  sufficient  period  for  an  individual  to  be  born, 
be  developed,  and  to  become  itself  a  parent !  The 
reader  must  not  forget  that  all  these  wonderful  facts 
are  related  of  a  living  being  not  quite  the  thirty-sixth 
part  of  an  inch  in  length — a  mere  speck  in  the 
visible  world ! 

Let  us  pause  for  a  moment  in  our  examination, 
to  reflect  upon  these  marvellous  revelations.  How 
perfect  are  the  works  of  the  Divine  Hand!  Not 


long  since  we  allowed  our  imagination  to  penetrate 
the  unfathomable  ocean  of  space,  wherein  "  God's 
name  is  writ  in  worlds;"  and  now  as  we  peep  into 
a  drop  of  water,  we  find  in  the  structure  of  its  mar- 
vellous inhabitants  evidences  of  the  same  Almighty 
Wisdom  that  conceived  the  harmonious  arrangement 
of  the  celestial  orbs.  It  has  been  truly  said,  that 
the  smallest  living  object  in  the  world  is  in  itself, 
and  for  the  part  it  is  destined  to  perform  in  nature, 
as  perfect  as  the  largest. 

The  plants  of  the  invisible  world  outvie  the  ani- 
mals in  strangeness  and  beauty.  We  call  them 
plants,  though  they  are  utterly  unlike  the  vegetable 
forms  of  the  visible  world.  All  these  beings  are 
endowed  with  powers  of  motion,  and  were  until 
quite  recently  regarded  as  animals.  In  nature  there 
is  no  line  of  demarcation  between  the  two  organic 
kingdoms,  and  these  moving  plants  seem  to  form 
the  link  which  renders  the  chain  of  being  complete. 
The  Diatomacece,  or  diatoms,  are  by  far  the  most 
abundant  forms  of  microscopic  vegetation,  and  we 
will  therefore  devote  some  space  to  their  considera- 
tion. In  shape,  these  beings  resemble  mathematical 
figures  of  minute  dimensions,  rather  than  vegetable 
organisms;  and  appear  to  us  as  living  circles,  ovals, 
polygons,  triangles,  and  stars. 

The  movements  of  the  diatoms  are  due  to  the 
cilia,  or  eyelashes,  with  which  they  are  furnished; 
but  it  is  a  disputed  point  whether  these  cilia  act  in 
obedience  to  a  will,  or  whether  their  motion  is  due 


to  a  physical  force  acting  independently  of  any  con- 
trolling power.  Adopting  the  latter  view  of  ciliary 
motion,  a  clever  writer  has  compared  the  moving 
diatom  to  a  little  steamer  with  the  fires  lighted  and 
the  paddles  going,  but  without  a  crew,  a  pilot,  or  a 

The  distinguishing  peculiarity  of  the  Diatomacecr 
is,  that  they  possess  a  solid  framework  of  flint,  their 
vegetable  matter  being  merely  a  delicate  investing 
membrane.  The  trees  of  the  forest,  having  passed 
through  their  s\iccessive  stages  of  development, 
undergo  the  process  of  decay,  their  constituents 
being  dissipated  as  invisible  gases;  but  the  tiny 
diatoms  are  indestructible,  and  their  constantly- 
accumulating  skeletons  are  gradually  being  depo- 
sited in  beds  beneath  the  waters  which  cover  three- 
fifths  of  the  surface  of  this  planet. 

"  At  first,"  says  a  celebrated  naturalist,  "  the 
effect  produced  by  things  so  small — thousands  of 
which  might  be  contained  in  a  drop,  and  millions 
packed  together  in  a  cubic  inch — may  appear  of 
trifling  moment,  when  speaking  of  so  grand  an 
operation  as  the  deposition  of  submarine  strata. 
But  each  moment  has  its  value  in  the  measurement 
of  time,  to  whatever  extent  of  ages  the  succession 
may  be  prolonged;  so  each  of  these  atoms  has  a 
definite  relation  to  space,  and  their  constant  pro- 
duction and  deposition  will  at  length  result  in 
mountains.  The  examination  of  the  most  ancient 
of  the  stratified  rocks,  and  of  all  others  in  the  as- 


cending  scale,  and  the  investigation  of  deposits  now 
in  the  course  of  formation,  teach  us  that,  from  the 
first  dawn  of  animated  nature  up  to  the  present 
hour,  this  prolific  family  has  never  ceased  its 
activity.  England  may  boast  that  the  sun  never 
sets  upon  her  empire;  but  here  is  an  ocean-realm 
whose  subjects  are  literally  more  numerous  than 
the  sands  of  the  sea.  We  cannot  count  them  by 
millions  simply,  but  by  hundreds  of  thousands  of 
millions.  Indeed,  it  is  futile  to  speak  of  numbers 
in  relation  to  things  so  uncountable.  Extensive 
rocky  strata,  chains  of  hills,  beds  of  marl,  almost 
every  description  of  soil,  whether  superficial  or 
raised  from  a  great  depth,  contain  the  remains  of 
these  little  plants,  in  greater  or  less  abundance. 
Some  tracts  of  country  are  literally  built  up  of 
their  skeletons.  No  country  is  destitute  of  such 
monuments;  and  in  some  they  constitute  the  lead- 
ing features  in  the  structure  of  the  soil.  The  world 
is  a  vast  catacomb  of  Diatomacece;  nor  is  the  growth 
of  those  old  dwellers  on  the  earth  diminished  in  its 
latter  days!"* 

Whether  living  or  dead,  diatoms  are  very  beau- 
tiful objects  under  the  microscope;  but  it  is  im- 
possible to  give  in  words  a  distinct  idea  of  their 
complex  forms  and  delicate  markings.  In  the 
muddy  waters  of  the  Thames  we  meet  with  some 
lovely  varieties.  Amongst  them  we  may  find  one  or 
two  which  may  be  roughly  compared  with  some 
*  Doctor  Harvey. 


familiar  objects  belonging  to  the  visible  world.  A 
many-spoked  wheel,  divested  of  its  felly,  will  give 
the  reader  some  idea  of  a  common  diatom;*  but  he 
must  imagine  the  spokes  to  be  formed  of  innume- 
rable pieces  joined  together  with  the  utmost  nicety, 
and  to  be  inserted  in  the  nave  with  far  greater 
regularity  than  that  attainable  by  any  human 
wheelwright.  Yet  this  delicate  wheel  is  formed  of 
the  hardest  flint,  and  is  so  minute  that  its  spokes 
are  less  than  the  three-hundredth  part  of  an  inch 
in  length ! 

Another  diatom  has  the  appearance  of  a  piece  of 
lace  edging,  with  crossing  threads  and  oval  openings 
arranged  in  a  beautiful  and  perfectly  regular  pat- 
tern.t  Another  resembles  a  chain  of  flat  beads,  or 
rather,  an  open  bracelet  formed  of  oblong  tablets. 
This  simile,  however,  is  far  from  being  perfect;  for 
the  living  tablets  of  the  diatom  are  neither  strung 
upon  threads,  nor  connected  by  hinges,  but  are  joined 
in  some  inexplicable  manner  at  their  corners.  J 

The  boat- shaped  diatoms,  or  Naviculce,  are  per- 
haps the  most  beautiful  of  this  minute  family.  One 
of  them,  an  unnamed  variety,  has  been  thus  de- 
scribed by  an  anonymous  writer : — "The  tiny  bark  is 
a  boat  of  cut  rock-crystal,  fit  to  float  across  a  sea  of 
light;  itself  might  almost  be  believed  to  be  fashioned 
out  of  solidified  light.  The  central  line  must  be  the 
keel;  the  translucent  planking  is  clearly  visible; 
and  around  the  sides  are  cut  symmetrical  notches,  to 
*  Aaterionella.  t  Fragilaria.  £  Bacillaria. 


serve  as  rullocks  for  ethereal  rowers  to  navigate 
this  brilliant  gondola."  In  Thames  water,  Naviculce 
exist  in  great  abundance,  the  most  common  form 
being  that  of  an  Indian  canoe,  with  a  gracefully 
curved  prow.* 

The  flint  which  forms  the  skeleton  of  the  diatom, 
and  the  armour  of  the  animalcule,  is  withdrawn 
from  its  solution  in  the  waters  inhabited  by  these 
minute  organisms  by  some  mysterious  operation  of 
the  vital  force.  So  prolific  are  these  tiny  forms  of 
life,  that  it  has  been  estimated  that  a  single  animal- 
cule can  increase  to  such  an  extent  during  one 
month,  that  its  entire  descendants  can  form  a  bed 
of  silica  or  flint  twenty-five  square  miles  in  extent, 
and  one  foot  and  three-quarters  thick !  "  As  a 
parallel  to  Archimedes,"  says  Bischof,  "  who  declared 
he  could  move  the  earth  if  he  had  a  lever  long 
enough,  we  may  say  : — Give  us  a  mailed  animalcule, 
and  with  it  we  will  in  a  short  time  separate  all  the 
carbonate  of  lime  and  silica  from  the  ocean  !" 

This  leads  us  to  consider  more  minutely  the  part 
played  by  the  animals  and  plants  of  the  invisible 
world  in  the  formation  of  the  beds  of  rock  which 
form  the  solid  crust  of  our  globe.  Twenty  years 
ago  Professor  Ehrenberg  discovered  a  wonderful  bed 
of  earth  which  was  almost  entirely  composed  of 
living  infusoria,  and  which  extended  to  twenty,  and, 
in  some  localities,  even  to  sixty  feet  in  depth. 
This  formation  is  situated  in  Berlin,  at  a  depth  of 
*  Navicula  hippocampus. 


about  fifteen  feet  below  the  pavement  of  the  city. 
How  life  is  sustained  in  this  subterranean  world  of 
infusoria  is  a  mystery,  since  it  is  evident  that  the 
organisms  cannot  come  in  contact  with  any  air  ex- 
cept that  which  is  contained  in  the  water  which 
percolates  through  the  mass. 

This  discovery  was  followed  by  others  equally 
astounding.  A  mass,  more  than  twenty  feet  in 
thickness,  of  light  silicious  earth,  was  found  at 
Ebsdorf,  in  Hanover,  and,  on  examination  by  the 
microscope,  it  appeared  that  this  earth  consisted 
entirely  of  the  minute  shields  of  invisible  infusoria. 
Again,  the  beds  of  silicious  marls  upon  which  the 
towns  of  Richmond  and  Petersburg,  in  Virginia, 
are  built,  are  now  known  to  be  almost  wholly  made 
up  of  the  skeletons  of  diatomaccee.  The  forms  that 
predominate  are  elegant  saucer-shaped  shields,  ela- 
borately ornamented  with  hexagonal  spots  disposed 
in  curves,  and  resembling  the  engine-turned  sculp- 
turing on  a  watch.  They  vary  in  size  froTn  the 
one-hundredth  to  the  one-thousandth  of  an  inch  in 

We  need  not  carry  our  microscope  out  of  England 

to  discover  the  remains  of  infusoria  in  the  earth's 

crust.     The  white  chalk  which  underlies  or  forms 

the  surface  of  the  south-eastern  part  of  England,  is 

a  mere  aggregation  of  microscopic  shell  and  corals, 

so  minute  that  upwards  of  a  million  of  the  former 

are  contained  in  a  single  cubic  inch  of  this  well- 

*  Dr.  Mantell. 



known  substance.  These  little  shells,  which  remind 
us  of  those  of  the  nautili,  are  the  calcareous  enve- 
lopes of  the  animalcules  termed  foraminifera,  which 
abound  in  modern  seas,  and  are  constantly  contri- 
buting to  the  amount  of  sediment  now  forming  in 
the  bed  of  the  ocean.  The  beautiful  white  stone 
called  calcaire  grassier,  which  furnishes  the  inhabi- 
tants of  Paris  with  a  cheap  and  inexhaustible  supply 
of  building  material,  has  almost  the  same  structure 
as  chalk  ;  and  Professor  Ansted  has  observed  that 
the  capital  of  France,  as  well  as  the  towns  and 
villages  of  the  neighbouring  departments,  are  almost 
entirely  built  of  foraminifera. 

These  stupendous  results  produced  by  the  agency 
of  creatures  that  are  separately  invisible  to  the 
naked  eye,  direct  our  thoughts  to  the  Creator  who 
has  thought  fit  to  endow  these  living  atoms  with 
powers  that  render  them  such  important  instruments 
in  effecting  the  changes  in  the  earth's  surface,  which 
His  infinite  wisdom  has  planned. 

Let  us  quit  the  infusoria  and  glance  with  our 
microscopic  eye  at  some  other  marvellous  objects 
belonging  to  the  invisible  world.  If  we  look  through 
our  magic  tube  at  the  downy  mould  formed  upon 
any  decaying  substance,  a  wonderful  forest  of  deli- 
cate thread-like  plants  will  be  revealed.  These 
beautiful  fungi  will  be  seen  to  multiply  and  grow, 
to  swell  and  finally  to  burst,  scattering  their  invi- 
sible spores  into  the  surrounding  air. 

If  we  make  use  of  our  microscope  to  examine  the 


eggs  of  insects  we  shall  have  cause  to  wonder  at 
their  elaborate  carving  and  beautiful  forms.  It  is 
impossible  to  convey  to  the  reader  an  adequate  idea 
of  the  elegant  design  and  delicate  sculpturing  of  some 
of  these  insect-eggs ;  few  of  which,  be  it  observed, 
are  what  is  commonly  termed  egg-shaped.  It  is  im- 
possible to  account  for  the  strange  diversities  of 
form  in  these  egglets ;  thus,  in  the  small  and  great 
peacock  butterflies,  which  differ  in  little  but  size, 
the  egg  of  the  first  is  a  cylinder  with  eight  promi- 
nent ribs,  while  that  of  the  latter  is  shaped  like  a 
Florence  flask  and  has  no  ribs.  Why  the  little  peacock 
should  escape  from  a  barrel,  and  the  big  one  from  a 
bottle,  is  a  problem  as  yet  unsolved.  Here  are  the 
eggs  of  four  different  members  of  the  butterfly 
family.  To  the  unaided  eye  they  appear  mere  un- 
interesting dots,  about  the  size  of  a  pin's  head,  but 
if  we  examine  them  microscopically,  we  shall  find 
that  nature  has  spared  no  pains  in  decorating  these 
minute  objects.  One  of  these  eggs  is  an  elegant 
turban,  having  a  round  button  in  the  centre  of  the 
depressed  crown ;  another  is  a  very  elaborate  pound- 
cake ;  the  third  a  fairy  foot  ball,  covered  with  a 
network  of  extremely  minute  hexagonal  meshes ; 
and  the  fourth  is  a  little  spherical  summer-house  of 
rustic-work  roofed  with  flat  tiles.  The  last  simile 
is  a  little  strained,  as  it  is  not  easy  to  imagine  a 
rustic  arbour  shaped  like  a  balloon,  but  we  must 
remind  the  reader  that  we  meet  with  forms  in  the 
invisible  world  that  cannot  be  likened  to  any  object 


that  exists  within  the  sphere  of  unaided  vision. 
The  smaller  insects  deposit  eggs  that  are  still  more 
curious  than  those  of  the  butterflies  and  moths. 
The  egg  of  the  lace-fly  is  like  an  unripe  cherry  with 
a  long  white  transparent  stem  ;  that  of  the  blow- 
fly like  a  white  cucumber  with  longitudinal  stripes ; 
and  that  deposited  by  the  bug  has  been  well  com- 
pared to  a  circular  game-pie  with  a  standing  crust, 
the  lid  of  which  is  lifted  when  the  young  one  makes 
its  exit  after  hatching. 

The  microscope  reveals  many  wonderful  peculi- 
arities of  structure  in  the  beings  whose  eggs  we 
have  just  examined.  The  coloured  dust  of  the 
butterfly's  wing  turns  out  to  be  feathery-scales  of  a 
tapering  form,  with  deeply-cut  notches  at  their  broad 
end.  The  hairs  of  the  bee  are  seen  to  be  thickly 
beset  with  still  finer  hairs.  The  smallest  fly  is 
found  to  possess  an  elaborate  pumping  apparatus  or 
trunk,  compared  with  which  the  pumps  constructed 
by  man  are  clumsy  and  inefficient.  The  eyes  of 
insects  are  composite,  each  visible  eye  being  made 
up  of  thousands  that  are  invisible ;  no  less  than 
twenty  thousand  of  these  minute  organs  have  been 
detected  by  means  of  the  microscope  in  the  head  of 
the  hawk-moth.  But  our  space  is  limited,  and  we 
dare  not  enter  any  further  into  the  subject  of  insect 

The  dust  of  the  butterfly's  wing  is  remarkable 
enough,  but  the  fertilizing  dust  or  pollen  that  covers 
the  stamens  of  flowers,  appears  still  more  curious  to 


the  microscopic  eye.  Pollen  varies  greatly  in  dif- 
ferent plants.  An  author,  who  seems  to  have  a 
happy  knack  of  finding  similes  for  indescribable 
objects,  says  that  the  rose  and  poppy  have  pollen 
like  grains  of  wheat  magnified  into  semi-transparent 
weavers'  shuttles ;  that  of  the  mallow,  he  tells  us, 
resembles  cannon-balls  covered  with  spikes  ;  the 
fuchsia  has  pollen  like  bits  of  half-melted  sticky 
sugar-candy,  with  which  a  small  quantity  of  horse- 
hair has  become  entangled  ;  and  the  passion-flower 
has  pollen  grains  resembling  Chinese  carved  ivory 

The  microscope  has  revealed  strange  little  fissures 
and  cavities  in  minerals,  the  latter  containing  fluids, 
groups  of  crystals,  and  floating  balls.  Even  the 
diamond,  topaz,  garnet,  and  other  precious  stones, 
have  these  minute  cavities. 

Here  we  must  stop,  or  our  fairy-tale  will  wear 
out  the  patience  of  the  reader.  We  have  glanced 
at  a  few  of  the  marvels  of  the  invisible  world 
through  that  wonderful  spy-glass  which  science  has 
recently  brought  to  a  high  state  of  perfection,  and 
which  day  by  day  adds  to  our  knowledge  of  minute 
things.  Our  examination  has  necessarily  been  im- 
perfect, for  it  would  be  an  easier  task  to  enumerate 
all  the  visible  objects  upon  the  face  of  the  earth, 
than  to  describe  the  countless  forms  that  exist  in 
the  invisible  world. 

SHonhrfiil  limits. 


"  Give  me  to  drain  the  cocoa's  milky  bowl, 
And  from  the  palm  to  draw  its  freshening  wine." 


THE  wonderful  plants  portrayed  by  our  artist  are 
scarcely  more  wonderful  than  some  of  the  vegetable 
productions  of  this  bounteous  earth.  The  little  boy 
may  well  be  astonished  to  see  such  a  wonderful  crop 
of  good  things  ;  but  if  he  will  only  stop  and  think 
a  little  he  will  find  that  plum-puddings,  mince-pies, 
and  wearing  apparel  do  really  grow,  or,  more  strictly 
speaking,  they  spring  from  the  wonderful  plants 
which  actually  exist.  Consider  the  composition  of 
that  famous  pudding  which  crowns  the  fanciful 
group  on  the  preceding  page.  The  currants  and 
raisins,  the  sugar,  almonds,  and  candied  lemon-peel 
which  are  its  principal  ingredients,  are  all  vegetable 
productions  ;  and  the  suet  and  eggs  may  be  described 
as  animalized  grass  and  barley,  for  they  are  formed 
out  of  the  vegetable  food  of  the  ox  and  the  hen. 
The  plum-pudding  tree  is  not  half  so  preposterous  a 
conception  as  it  appears  to  be  at  the  first  glance. 


In  the  present  chapter  we  propose  to  consider 
some  of  the  most  striking  productions  of  the  vege- 
table kingdom.  We  shall  not  attempt  to  preserve 
any  sort  of  order  in  our  rapid  review,  but  will  jump 
from  one  country  to  another,  and  throw  aside  all 
the  elaborate  systems  of  classification  that  have 
been  devised  by  botanists.  We  will  promise  to 
bring  some  wonderful  plants  before  the  reader's 
notice,  but  we  will  not  bind  ourselves  to  any  scien- 
tific rules. 

The  imaginary  plum-pudding  tree  naturally  sug- 
gests the  bread-fruit  of  the  islands  of  the  Pacific, 
that  wonderful  plant  that  bears  a  crop  of  penny 
rolls.  The  bread-fruit  is  a  beautiful  as  well  as  a 
useful  tree.  Its  trunk  rises  to  a  height  of  about 
forty  feet,  and  when  full  grown  is  from  a  foot  to 
fifteen  inches  in  diameter.  The  branches  come  out 
in  a  horizontal  manner,  becoming  shorter  and 
shorter  as  they  near  the  top.  The  leaves  are  of  a 
rich  green,  are  nearly  two  feet  long,  and  deeply 
gashed  or  divided  at  the  edges. 

As  for  its  marvellous  fruit,  we  cannot  do  better 
than  quote  the  words  of  Captain  Dampier,  who  first 
described  it  in  1688.  "The  fruit,"  says  this  cele- 
brated navigator,  "  grows  on  the  boughs  like  apples; 
it  is  as  big  as  a  penny  loaf  when  wheat  is  at  five 
shillings  the  bushel ;  it  is  of  a  round  shape,  and  hath  a 
thick  tough  rind.  When  the  fruit  is  ripe  it  is  yellow 
and  soft,  and  the  taste  is  sweet  and  pleasant.  The 
natives  use  it  for  bread.  They  gather  it  when  full 


grown,  while  it  is  green  and  hard ;  then  they  bake 
it  in  an  oven  which  scorcheth  the  rind  and  maketh  it 
black ;  but  they  scrape  off  the  outside  black  crust, 
and  there  remains  a  tender  thin  crust;  and  the  in- 
side is  soft,  tender,  and  white,  like  the  crumb  of  a 
penny  loaf.  There  is  neither  seed  nor  stone  in  the 
inside,  but  all  of  a  pure  substance  like  bread.  It 
must  be  eaten  now,  for  if  it  be  kept  above  twenty- 
four  hours,  it  grows  harsh  and  choky,  but  it  is  very 
pleasant  before  it  is  too  stale.  This  fruit  lasts  in 
season  eight  months  in  the  year,  during  which  the 
natives  eat  no  other  sort  of  bread."  This  quaint 
description  is  singularly  accurate,  and  has  been  con- 
firmed by  many  modern  travellers.  The  timber  of 
the  bread-fruit,  though  soft,  is  much  used  by  the 
natives  in  the  construction  of  houses  and  boats; 
the  flowers,  when  dried,  form  a  sort  of  tinder;  the 
viscous  fluid  that  oozes  from  the  trunk  serves  for 
bird-lime  and  glue;  the  leaves  are  used  for  towels; 
and  from  the  inner  bark  a  coarse  kind  of  cloth  is 
made.  Thus  we  see  that  food  and  raiment  grow  on 
this  wonderful  plant. 

The  cabbage-palm  of  Surinam  is  another  of  our 
wonderful  plants.  This  gigantic  tree  has  a  stem 
about  seven  feet  in  circumference  at  the  base,  which 
ascends  straight  and  tapering  to  a  vast  height,  and 
bears  a  plume  of  graceful  foliage.  The  cabbage  lies 
concealed  within  the  leaves  that  surround  the  top 
of  the  trunk.  It  is  about  two  or  three  feet  loner 


and  as  thick  as  a  man's  arm.     When  eaten  raw,  it 


greatly  resembles  the  almond  in  flavour,  but  is  much 
more  tender  and  delicious.  It  is  generally  cut  into 
pieces,  boiled,  and  served  up  with  meat. 

"  To  obtain  this  small  portion,"  says  Dr.  Lan- 
kaster,  "  borne  on  the  pinnacle  of  the  tree,  and 
hidden  from  the  eye  of  man,  the  axe  is  applied  to 
the  stately  trunk,  and  this  majestic  lord  of  the  moun- 
tain top  is  laid  low,  to  furnish  a  small  quantity  of 
vegetable  matter,  which  is  eaten  like  cauliflower, 
and  which  receives  its  distinctive  name  from  our 
lowly  cabbage.  Surely  this  rivals  the  tales  handed 
down  to  us  of  Roman  epicurism  !" 

The  reader  has  doubtless  heard  of  the  cow-tree  of 
South  America,  which  yields  an  abundant  supply  of 
milk  to  the  Indian  of  the  Cordilleras,  and  flourishes 
at  a  vast  height  amid  arid  mountains  where  no  cattle 
can  pasture.  This  wonderful  plant  has  been  de- 
scribed by  Humboldt  with  his  characteristic  spirit 
and  accuracy.  "  On  the  side  of  a  thirsty  rock," 
says  the  great  traveller,  "  grows  a  tree  whose 
leaves  are  dry  and  husky.  Its  large  roots  peneti'ate 
with  difficulty  through  the  stony  soil.  During 
many  months  of  the  year  not  a  shower  waters  its 
foliage;  the  branches  appear  withered  and  dead; 
but  when  its  trunk  is  pierced,  a  sweet  and  nourish- 
ing milk  flows  from  the  wound.  It  is  at  the  rising 
of  the  sun  that  this  vegetable  aliment  is  most 
plentiful.  The  natives  and  the  black  slaves  then 
gather  together  from  all  parts  with  large  wooden 
vessels  to  catch  the  milk,  which  as  it  flows  becomes 


yellow,  and  thickens  on  the  surface.  Some  make 
their  abundant  meal  at  the  foot  of  the  tree  which 
supplies  it;  others  carry  their  full  vessels  home  to 
their  children." 

Our  reader  will  not  question  the  utility  of  writing- 
paper,  though  he  may  possibly  deem  this  substance 
of  inferior  importance  to  either  bread,  cabbage,  or 
milk.  The  poets  and  sages  of  antiquity  did  not 
write  their  immortal  works  upon  "foolscap,"  but 
upon  natural  paper,  furnished  by  the  papyrus — a 
reed-like  plant,  growing  in  the  waters  of  the  Nile. 
The  stem  of  this  wonderful  plant  is  triangular,  and 
shoots  up  gracefully  to  the  height  of  some  fifteen  or 
twenty  feet,  its  slender  top  bearing  a  tuft  of  thread- 
like leaves. 

The  inner  bark  of  the  stem  was  divided  into 
thin  plates  or  pellicles,  each  as  large  as  the  plant 
would  admit.  These  plates,  which  were  necessarily 
very  narrow,  were  then  laid  side  by  side,  with  their 
edges  touching,  on  a  smooth  hard  surface  ;  and  then 
other  pieces  were  laid  across  them,  so  as  to  form  a 
sheet  of  many  pieces,  which  required  adhesion  to 
become  one  united  substance.  The  whole  was  then 
moistened  with  Nile  water,  and  subjected  to  pres- 
sure ;  and  in  this  manner  the  sheet  Avas  formed, 
for  the  glutinous  sap  contained  in  the  plant  suf- 
ficed to  cement  the  various  pieces  together.  The 
plates  procured  from  the  central  portions  of  the 
stem  were  the  most  valuable,  and  were  used  to 
form  varieties  of  paper  equivalent  to  our  "  cream- 


laid"  and  "  satin-wove"  post.  The  papyrus  must 
look  down  upon  its  aquatic  companions  with 
supreme  contempt,  for  it  can  boast  of  a  long  line 
of  ancestors,  whose  delicate  under-skins  served  to 
perpetuate  the  sublime  thoughts  conceived  by  the 
giant  intellects  of  the  past. 

The  fan-palm  of  Ceylon  is  another  paper-tree.  Its 
stem  attains  a  great  height,  and  is  surmounted  by 
many  large  palmated  leaves,  the  lobes  or  divisions 
of  which  are  very  long,  and  are  arranged  round  a 
foot-stalk,  like  the  ribs  of  an  umbrella.  Indeed, 
these  compound  leaves  are  actually  used  as  umbrellas 
by  the  Cingalese,  a  single  out-spreading  leaf  afford- 
ing ample  shelter  for  seven  or  eight  people.  All 
the  religious  books  of  the  Cingalese  are  written,  or 
rather  engraved,  on  tablets  plucked  from  this  won- 
derful palm,  the  leaves  of  the  book  being  simply  the 
leaflets  of  the  tree. 

The  palms  are  all  wonderful  plants,  from  what- 
ever point  of  view  we  may  regard  them.  The 
services  they  render  man  are  incalculable.  The 
date  palm  gives  him  its  nourishing  fruit,  the  cocoa 
palm  its  milky  nuts,  the  sago  palm  its  farinaceous 
pith,  and  the  Palmyra  palm  its  sweet  juice,  which 
becomes  wine  by  fermentation.  Then,  as  for  useful 
things  that  are  neither  eatable  nor  drinkable,  the 
palm  tribe  furnishes  vegetable  oil,  wax,  and  ivory, 
fibres  that  may  be  formed  into  cordage,  leaves  that 
may  be  used  for  thatching,  and  timber  that  may 
be  applied  to  a  hundred  different  purposes. 


The  wax-bearing  palm  is  called  the  pashiuba, 
and  its  peculiar  form,  were  it  remarkable  for 
nothing  else,  would  entitle  it  to  a  place  among 
our  wonderful  plants.  Its  slender  stem  shoots  up 
to  the  height  of  some  fifty  or  sixty  feet,  and  is 
strangely  supported  by  a  tall  open  cone  of  roots. 

"  But  what  most  strikes  attention  in  this  tree, 
and  renders  it  so  peculiar,  is,  that  the  roots  are 
almost  entirely  above  ground.  They  spring  out 
from  the  stem,  each  one  at  a  higher  point  than  the 
last,  and  extend  diagonally  downwards  till  they  ap- 
proach the  ground,  when  they  often  divide  into 
many  rootlets,  each  of  which  secures  itself  in  the 
soil.  As  fresh  ones  spring  out  from  the  stem,  those 
below  become  rotten  and  die  off;  and  it  is  not  an 
uncommon  thing  to  see  a  lofty  tree  supported  en- 
tirely by  three  or  four  roots,  so  that  a  person  may 
walk  erect  beneath  them,  or  stand  with  a  tree  seventy 
feet  high  growing  immediately  over  his  head.  In  the 
forests  where  these  trees  grow,  numbers  of  young 
plants  of  every  age  may  be  seen,  all  miniature  copies 
of  their  parents,  except  that  they  seldom  possess 
more  than  three  legs,  which  give  them  a  strange 
and  almost  ludicrous  appearance."* 

These  aerial  roots  are  not  peculiar  to  the  pa- 
shiuba palm.  In  the  mangrove,  a  wonderful  plant 
that  grows  on  the  sea-shore  in  tropical  countries, 
the  trunk  springs  from  the  union  of  a  number  of 
slender  arches  formed  by  the  roots,  whose  extremi- 
*  Wallace's  "Palms  of  the  Amazon." 


ties  penetrate  into  the  muddy  soil.  "  The  larger 
arches,"  says  Mr.  Gosse,  "  send  out  secondary  shoots 
from  their  sides,  which  take  the  same  curved  form, 
but  in  a  direction  at  right  angles  to  the  former  : 
and  thus  a  complex  array  of  vaulted  lines  is 
formed,  which  to  the  crabs  that  run  beneath — if 
they  were  able  to  institute  the  comparison,  must  be 
like  the  roof-groins  of  some  Gothic  church,  supposing 
the  interspaces  to  be  open  to  the  sky." 

But  the  wonder  of  wonders  in  this  shore-loving 
plant,  is  the  premature  germination  of  its  long  club- 
shaped  seeds.  Each  seed  begins  to  grow  while 
hanging  from  the  twig,  gradually  lengthening  until 
the  tip  reaches  the  soft  soil,  which  it  penetrates,  and 
thus  roots  itself.  The  seeds  which  depend  from  the 
higher  branches  cannot  stretch  themselves  out  to  a 
sufficient  length  to  reach  the  mud  ;  they  therefore 
drop  as  soon  as  they  feel  themselves  strong  enough 
to  commence  an  independent  existence.  In  this 
manner  a  dense  forest  of  mangroves  is  speedily  pro- 
duced from  a  single  trunk.  Dampier  has  described 
such  a  forest  with  his  usual  accuracy. 

"  The  red  mangrove,"  he  says,  "  groweth  com- 
monly by  the  sea  side,  or  by  rivers  or  creeks.  It 
always  grows  out  of  many  roots,  about  the  bigness 
of  a  man's  leg,  some  bigger,  some  less,  which  at 
about  six,  eight,  or  ten  feet  above  the  ground,  join 
into  one  trunk  or  body,  that  seems  to  be  supported 
by  so  many  artificial  stakes.  Where  this  sort  of 
tree  grows,  it  is  impossible  to  march  by  reason  of 


these  stakes,  which  grow  so  mixed  one  among 
another,  that  I  have,  when  forced  to  go  through 
them,  gone  half  a  mile,  and  never  set  my  foot  on 
the  ground,  stepping  from  root  to  root." 

There  is  a  species  of  cane  that  must  surely  be 
considered  a  wonderful  plant,  for,  though  no  thicker 
than  the  little  finger,  it  is  sometimes  a  quarter  of  a 
mile  in  length.  This  vegetable  cord  is  studded  with 
sharp  prickles,  by  means  of  which  it  is  enabled  to 
cling  to  the  leaves  and  branches  of  the  various  trees 
which  it  encounters  in  its  serpentine  course. 

The  gum-trees  of  the  Australian  forests  resemble 
our  own  timber  trees  in  form,  but  their  leaves,  in- 
stead of  being  extended  horizontally  so  as  to  catch 
the  falling  rain,  are  placed  edgewise,  and  thus  allow 
the  rain -drops  and  the  sun's  rays  to  pass  between 
them.  Near  these  wonderful  trees,  which  afford  no 
shelter,  may  be  found  the  grass-tree,  displaying 
what  seems  to  be  an  immense  tuft  of  wiry  grass 
elevated  on  the  summit  of  a  dark  ungainly  trunk. 
A  number  of  tall  spikes  of  blossom,  resembling 
bulrushes,  spring  from  the  centre  of  the  grassy 
crown,  and  render  this  wonderful  plant  still  more 

The  famous  banyan-tree  must  not  be  omitted,  for 
it  would  be  difficult  to  find  a  plant  to  which  the 
epithet  "wonderful"  could  be  applied  with  greater 
propriety.  This  sacred  tree  of  the  Hindoos  attains 
a  prodigious  size,  sometimes  covering  an  area  of 
nearly  2000  square  yards,  for  its  lateral  branches 


send  down  shoots  which  take  root,  till,  in  course  of 
time,  a  single  tree  becomes  a  vast  umbrageous  tent, 
supported  by  numerous  columns.  The  poet  has 
thus  described  this  marvel  of  the  vegetable  king- 
dom : — 

"  Branching  so  broad  along,  that  in  the  ground 
The  bending  twigs  take  root ;  and  daughters  grow 
About  the  mother  tree  ;  a  pillared  shade 
High  over-arched,  with  echoing  walks  between. 
There  oft  the  Indian  herdsman,  shunning  heat, 
Shelters  in  cool ;  and  tends  his  pasturing  herds 
At  loop-holes  cut  through  thickest  shade." 

Turn  we  now  to  plants  much  smaller  but  not  less 
wonderful  than  those  we  have  mentioned.  The 
mean-looking  little  plant  called  the  .Fly-trap  of 
Venus,  is  gifted  with  sensation  which  compensates 
for  its  want  of  beauty.  Each  leaf  is  formed  into 
two  halves,  which  move  on  a  central  hinge,  and  fold 
up  and  contract  on  the  slightest  contact.  The 
edges  are  beset  with  spines,  and  the  whole  surface 
is  covered  with  a  sticky  mucilage.  No  sooner  does 
an  unfortunate  fly  alight  on  one  of  these  ticklish 
leaves  than  the  two  halves  spring  together,  and  the 
insect  is  made  a  prisoner.  There  are  other  irrita- 
ble plants,  which  ought  to  be  mentioned  here.  The 
leaves  of  the  sensitive  mimosa  shrink  from  the 
slightest  touch,  while  those  of  the  Hedysarum 
gyrans  have  a  spontaneous  motion,  and  appear  to 
dance  about  from  pure  buoyancy  of  spirits. 

The   pitcher-plant,  with    its  marvellous    lidded 


goblet,  is  another  member  of  the  class  wonderful ; 
so  is  the  caricature-plant,  whose  spotted  leaves  bear 
such  a  striking  resemblance  to  human  faces.  The 
orchids,  whose  flowers  mimic  the  forms  of  various 
insects ;  and  the  cacti,  whose  quaint  shapes  render 
them  so  remarkable,  ought  to  be  included  in  our 
review  of  wonderful  plants;  but  this  list  must  ne- 
cessarily be  imperfect,  as  the  wonders  of  the  vege- 
table world  are  innumei-able.  We  have  merely 
selected  a  few  striking  forms  of  vegetable  life,  to 
show  the  reader  that  botany,  as  well  as  the  other 
sciences,  has  its  marvels. 

But  are  not  all  plants  wonderful  ?  If  we  examine 
minutely  the  structure  of  the  humblest  moss,  we 
may  discover  wonders  which  fill  the  mind  with 
admiration  and  astonishment.  We  may  fitly  con- 
clude this  rambling  chapter  with  an  anecdote  re- 
lated by  one  of  the  earliest  African  explorers,  who 
found  consolation,  when  in  the  depth  of  misery,  in 
the  contemplation  of  one  of  the  wonderful  plants 
with  which  the  Creator  has  been  pleased  to  deck 
this  beautiful  earth. 

"  In  this  forlorn  and  almost  helpless  condition," 
writes  Mungo  Park,  "  when  the  robbers  had  left 
me,  I  sat  for  some  time  looking  around  me  with 
amazement  and  terror;  whatever  way  I  turned, 
nothing  appeared  but  danger  and  difficulty.  I 
found  myself  in  the  midst  of  a  vast  wilderness,  in 
the  depth  of  the  rainy  season,  naked  and  alone,  sur- 
rounded by  savage  animals,  and  by  men  still  more 


savage.  I  was  five  hundred  miles  from  any  Euro- 
pean settlement.  All  these  circumstances  crowded 
at  once  on  my  recollection,  and  I  confess  that  my 
spirits  began  to  fail  me;  I  considered  my  fate  as 
certain,  and  that  I  had  no  alternative  but  to  lie 
down  and  perish. 

"  The  influence  of  religion,  however,  aided  and 
supported  me.  I  reflected  that  no  human  prudence 
or  foresight  could  possibly  have  averted  my  present 
sufferings;  I  was  indeed  a  stranger  in  a  strange 
land,  yet  I  was  still  under  the  protecting  eye  of 
that  God  who  has  condescended  to  call  himself  the 
stranger's  friend.  At  this  moment,  painful  as  my 
reflections  were,  the  extraordinary  beauty  of  a  small 
moss  caught  my  eye;  and  though  the  whole  plant 
was  not  larger  than  the  top  of  one  of  my  fingers,  I 
could  not  contemplate  the  delicate  conformation  of 
its  roots,  leaves,  and  fruit,  without  admiration. 

"  Can  that  Being,  thought  I,  who  planted, 
watered,  and  brought  to  perfection,  in  this  obscure 
part  of  the  world,  a  thing  which  appears  of  so  small 
importance,  look  with  unconcern  upon  the  situation 
and  sufferings  of  creatures  formed  after  his  own 
image?  Surely  not!  Reflections  like  these  would 
not  allow  me  to  despair.  I  started  up,  and  dis- 
regarding both  hunger  and  fatigue,  travelled  on- 
wards, assured  that  relief  was  at  hand;  and  I  was 
not  disappointed." 

"  The  ice  is  here,  the  ice  is  there, 
The  ice  is  all  around  ; 

It  cracks  and  growls,  and  roars  and  howls, 
Like  noises  in  a  swound." 

THE  attention  of  scientific  men  has  of  late  been 
directed  to  the  structure  and  movement  of  glaciers, 
those  vast  accumulations  of  ice  that  fill  up  the  deep 
valleys  of  mountains  whose  summits  are  covered  by 
perpetual  snow.  These  glaciers  form  the  moving 
lands  which  we  are  about  to  consider  for  the  edifica- 
tion of  our  reader.  The  facts  that  we  have  to  bring 
forward  relating  to  these  "  gigantic  icicles"  will 
doubtless  be  new  to  the  majority  of  our  readers,  as 
they  have  not  yet  found  their  way  into  elementary 
scientific  treatises.  In  selecting  our  faiiy  tales  from 
the  copious  budget  of  science,  we  have  never  lost 
sight  of  novelty,  but  have  endeavoured  to  elucidate 
the  most  recent  discoveries. 

As  we  ascend  a  lofty  mountain  the  air  becomes 
colder  and  colder,  and  at  a  certain  elevation  we 
enter  the  regions  of  eternal  snow.  The  vegetation 


that  clothes  the  slopes  undergoes  a  corresponding 
change,  and  at  the  margin  of  the  snow  we  find 
plants  resembling  those  of  the  arctic  circle. 

In  the  upper  regions  of  the  ice-world  water 
descends  from  the  clouds  in  the  form  of  snow  but 
never  in  the  form  of  rain.  The  average  fall  of 
snow,  in  the  region  of  the  Swiss  Alps,  from  8000 
to  10,000  feet  above  the  level  of  the  sea,  has  been 
estimated  at  sixty  feet,  that  is  to  say,  sufficient 
snow  descends  in  one  year  to  form  a  bed  of  this 
thickness.  What  becomes  of  all  this  frozen  water? 
How  is  it  that  the  mountains  do  not  become  top- 
heavy  1  Be  patient,  gentle  reader,  we  shall  be  in  a 
position  to  answer  these  momentous  questions  soon, 
but  at  present  we  must  confine  our  attention  to  the 
structure  of  the  snow-beds  that  are  formed  on  the 
vast  tablelands  of  these  elevated  regions. 

The  snow-bed  is  generally  called  the  neve,  and  is 
formed  of  layers  of  more  or  less  crystalline  snow, 
which  diminish  in  thickness  as  their  depth  increases ; 
in  other  words,  each  layer  is  thinner  than  that 
immediately  above  it.  At  a  certain  depth  these 
layers  can  scarcely  be  distinguished  one  from 
another,  and  still  lower  the  substance  of  the  neve 
passes  into  clear  ice.  The  separate  layers  repre- 
sent each  considerable  fall  of  snow  that  has  taken 
place,  and  their  gradual  consolidation  arises  from 
the  percolation  of  water  coming  from  above,  and  the 
pressure  of  fresh  strata  of  snow  which  continually 
accumulate  overhead. 


The  deep  valleys  that  radiate  from  the  central 
mass  of  a  great  mountain  are  invariably  filled  with 
frozen  water,  and  are  the  outlets  of  the  frozen  snow- 
fields,  or  in  the  words  of  a  clever  writer,  "  the 
glacier  is  a  river  of  ice,  and  the  neve  its  source." 
Glaciers  sometimes  fill  up  a  valley  twenty  miles  long 
by  three  or  four  broad  to  the  depth  of  six  hundred 
feet.  Although  apparently  solid  and  stationary, 
they  really  move  slowly  down  the  valley,  and  carry 
with  them,  either  on  the  surface,  frozen  into  their 
mass,  or  grinding  and  rubbing  along  the  bottom, 
all  the  fragments,  large  and  small,  from  blocks 
many  tons  in  weight,  down  to  the  finest  sand  and 
mud,  that  rain,  and  ice,  and  the  friction  of  the 
moving  glacier  itself,  detach  from  the  adjacent 

The  glaciers  of  the  Alps,  and  probably  those  of 
other  regions,  descend  to  a  vertical  depth  of  nearly 
4000  feet  below  the  line  of  perpetual  snow,  and  into 
a  climate  much  warmer  than  that  of  our  own  island, 
before  they  finally  melt  away,  and  leap  forth  as 
rivers  of  running  water.  The  heap  of  materials 
of  all  sorts  and  sizes  which  they  deposit  at  their 
melting  extremity  is  called  the  moraine,  a  term 
which  is  also  applied  to  the  lines  of  blocks  that  are 
being  carried  along  on  the  surface  of  the  glacier, 
the  floating  sticks  and  straws  of  the  solid  river. 

Strange  to  say,  the  simple  fact  of  the  motion  of 
glaciers  was  not  admitted  until  a  comparatively 
recent  date,  though  it  was  well  known  that  the 


lower  end  of  a  glacier,  in  spite  of  its  rapid  thawing, 
remained  year  after  year  at  about  the  same  point. 
Were  we  to  attempt  to  describe  the  various  obser- 
vations that  have  been  made  with  a  view  to  deter- 
mine the  rate  of  glacial  movement,  we  fear  we 
should  tax  our  reader's  patience.  Let  us  mention 
one  or  two  illustrative  facts.  In  the  year  1827,  M. 
Hugi  built  a  very  solid  hut  on  the  glacier  of  the 
lower  Aar.  In  1836  this  hut  was  4384  feet  farther 
down  the  valley.  Again,  Professor  Forbes  gives  an 
interesting  account  of  a  knapsack  lost  by  a  guide 
who  fell  into  a  crevass,  one  of  those  great  chasms 
which  are  often  observed  in  glaciers,  which  was 
recovered,  ten  years  after,  4300  feet  lower  down. 
These  facts,  were  there  no  others,  would  suffice  to 
prove  that  the  glaciers  move  onward  at  a  slow  but 
steady  pace. 

The  surface  of  the  glacier  is  rough  and  crumbling, 
and  the  traveller  can  walk  upon  it  without  fear  of 
slipping ;  in  some  parts  it  is  unbroken  and  undulat- 
ing, but  in  others  it  is  rent  by  yawning  fissures 
many  hundred  feet  in  depth,  one  set  of  fissures 
sometimes  crossing  another  at  right  angles,  and  so 
cutting  up  the  ice  in  fantastic  pinnacles  and  towers, 
that  occasionally  topple  over  with  a  terrific  crash. 
The  noises  that  proceed  from  the  glacier  cannot  be 
properly  described,  and  we  can  only  vaguely  com- 
pare the  mysterious  rumblings,  growls,  and  cracklings 
that  salute  the  traveller's  ear  to  "noises  in  a 
s  wound." 


Various  theories  have  been  advanced  to  account 
for  the  motion  of  glaciers.  Saussure,  who  was  the 
first  to  observe  these  wonderful  ice-rivers  with  any 
attention,  asserted  that  they  advance  by  sliding 
along  their  beds,  which  are  constantly  lubricated 
by  the  melting  of  the  lower  strata  of  ice.  But  this 
explanation  is  far  from  being  satisfactory.  Ice  is 
undoubtedly  a  very  slippery  substance,  but  it  is 
scarcely  credible  that  a  solid  mass  of  ice  some 
twenty  miles  in  length  should  glide  along  by  rea- 
son of  its  slipperiness. 

To  move  the  Leviathan,  our  engineers  had  to 
make  use  of  the  most  powerful  machines  ever  con- 
structed before  they  could  overcome  the  friction 
between  the  mighty  ship  and  the  surface  upon 
which  it  rested.  But  the  mass  of  the  Leviathan  is 
immeasurably  small  compared  with  that  of  the 
glacier ;  indeed,  the  river  of  ice  might  siipport  a 
number  of  such  ships,  and  still  move  onward  at  its 
usual  speed.  Now,  in  spite  of  the  lubricating  fluid 
which  Saussure  imagined  to  exist  between  the 
glacier  and  its  rocky  bed,  the  friction  must  be  im- 
mense, and  we  can  scarcely  reconcile  the  steady 
movement  of  the  frozen  mass  with  the  operation  of 
such  a  powerful  retarding  force. 

Again,  it  may  be  asked,  how  does  the  huge 
icicle  adapt  itself  to  the  irregular  form  of  the  valley 
through  which  it  travels  ]  A  solid  mass  of  ice, 
however  large,  might  possibly  slide  along  a  per- 
fectly straight  channel,  but  mere  slipperiness  would 


not  enable  it  to  pass  through  a  tortuous  valley. 
The  diameter  of  the  great  basin  of  the  Glacier  de 
Talefre,  on  the  range  of  Mont  Blanc,  is  six  times 
as  great  as  the  outlet  through  which  the  frozen 
stream  eventually  squeezes  itself.  Saussure's  ex- 
planation throws  no  light  upon  this  point,  and  it  is 
quite  plain  that  the  philosopher  had  failed  to  hit 
upon  the  true  theory  of  glacier  motion. 

We  will  pass  over  the  theory  of  M.  Agassiz,  which 
was  founded  on  a  radical  error,  and  proceed  to  con- 
sider that  advanced  by  Professor  James  Forbes  of 
Edinburgh.  In  1842,  this  celebrated  geologist  under- 
took an  extensive  series  of  observations ;  from  which 
dates  the  commencement  of  all  sound  and  accurate 
knowledge  respecting  our  moving  lands.  The  laws 
of  glacier  motion  were  established  by  a  few  simple 
observations.  He  showed  that  the  glacier  moves 
onward  with  sxich  regularity  that  it  is  almost  possi- 
ble to  tell  the  hour  by  the  progress  of  a  point  placed 
on  the  surface;  but  that  the  motion  is  less  rapid  in 
summer  than  in  winter,  in  damp  than  in  dry  weather, 
at  night  than  during  the  day.  The  different  parts 
of  the  same  glacier  do  not  advance  at  a  uniform 
rate,  and  the  centre  invariably  moves  more  rapidly 
than  the  sides.  If  a  series  of  points  be  laid  out  in. 
a  straight  line  across  the  glacier,  they  will  be  rapidly 
bent  into  the  form  of  a  regular  curve,  by  the  gra- 
dual decrease  of  velocity  from  the  centre  to  the 
sides.  Further  observations  in  subsequent  seasons 
proved  that  the  upper  part  of  the  glacier  moves 
faster  than  that  near  to  the  bottom. 


These  observations  established  the  strange  and 
unexpected  conclusion,  that  the  ice  of  glaciers, 
though  apparently  hard  and  brittle,  can  be  bent  and 
moulded  under  the  enormous  pressure  of  its  own 
weight,  and  that  instead  of  moving  like  an  ordinary 
solid,  it  flows  down  the  valley  just  as  a  viscous  sub- 
stance, such  as  partially  melted  pitch,  would  flow. 
Professor  Forbes  actually  attributed  this  manner  of 
motion  to  a  slight  degree  of  plasticity  or  a  demi- 
semi-fluidity  in  the  ice  mass,  and  announced  his 
new  theory  of  glacier  motion  in  these  words : — "  A 
glacier  is  an  imperfect  fluid,  or  a  viscous  body,  which 
is  urged  down  slopes  of  a  certain  inclination  by  the 
mutual  pressure  of  its  parts." 

Our  moving  lands  are  thus  robbed  of  their  solidity, 
and  become  mere  sluggish  rivers  of  a  marvellous 
sticky  fluid,  which  we  are  unable  to  define  with 
anything  like  accuracy, 

"  For  the  ice  it  isn't  water,  and  the  water  isn't  free, 
And  we  cannot  say  that  anything  is  as  it  ought  to  be." 

But  are  we  quite  sure  that  the  viscous  theory  is  the 
only  possible  explanation  of  glacier  motion?  It  is 
quite  certain  "  that  the  manner  of  movement  of  the 
surface  of  a  glacier  coincides  with  the  manner  of 
motion  of  a  viscous  or  semi-fluid  body,"  but  we  have 
many  reasons  for  doubting  the  viscosity  of  glacier  ice. 
The  yawning  crevasses,  the  fantastic  towers,  and  the 
perpetual  crackling  noise  of  a  glacier,  would  seem 
to  prove  that  it  is  formed  of  a  very  brittle  material. 
But  a  substance  cannot  be  brittle  and  viscous  at  the 


same  time,  and  we  are  quite  at  a  loss  to  explain  how 
it  is  that  the  motion  of  a  mass  of  ice  conforms  to 
that  of  an  imperfect  fluid. 

Professor  Tyndall  has  recently  cleared  up  the 
mystery,  and  has  shown  that  ice  may  be  plastic 
without  being  viscous.  Some  time  ago,  Professor 
Faraday  discovered  that  two  pieces  of  ice  when 
placed  in  contact,  would  freeze  together,  even  under 
hot  water,  and  that  any  number  of  fragments  would 
unite  into  a  solid  mass,  provided  sufficient  pressure 
were  applied  to  bring  their  surfaces  together.  The 
plasticity  of  ice  has  since  been  established  beyond 
all  question  by  the  beautiful  experiments  of  the 
younger  philosopher.  Spheres  of  ice  have  been 
flattened  into  cakes,  cakes  have  been  formed  into 
transparent  lenses,  a  block  of  ice  has  been  moulded 
into  a  crystal  cup,  and  a  straight  bar  six  inches  long 
has  been  bent  into  a  semi-ring.  Ice  can  be  forced 
into  a  mould  and  made  to  take  what  shape  we  please, 
not  because  it  is  an  imperfect  fluid  like  plaster  of 
Paris,  but  because  it  possesses  the  peculiar  property 
of  re-uniting  by  the  contact  of  adjoining  surfaces, 
after  having  been  broken  into  fragments.  In  for- 
cing a  cube  of  ice  into  a  cup-shaped  mould,  we  crush 
it  to  a  powder,  but  the  particles  composing  this 
powder  immediately  freeze  together  again  into  a 
solid  and  transparent  cup.  The  plasticity  of  ice  may 
therefore  be  explained  as  the  effect  of  breakage  and 
re-freezing,  or  in  scientific  language,  fracture  and 


This  strange  property  of  ice  fully  accounts  for  its 
obedience  to  the  law  of  glacier  motion  discovered 
by  Professor  Forbes.  "All  the  phenomena  of 
motion,"  says  Tyndall,  "  on  which  the  idea  of  visco- 
sity has  been  based  are  brought  by  such  experi- 
ments as  the  above  into  harmony  with  the  demon- 
strable property  of  ice.  In  virtue  of  this  property 
the  glacier  accommodates  itself  to  its  bed,  while 
preserving  its  general  continuity;  crevasses  are 
closed  up ;  and  the  broken  ice  of  a  cascade,  such  as 
that  of  the  Talefre  or  the  Rhone,  is  re-compacted 
into  a  solid  continuous  mass. 

"  But  if  the  glacier  accomplishes  its  movements 
in  virtue  of  the  incessant  fracture  and  regelation  of 
its  parts,  such  a  process  will  be  accompanied  by  a 
crackling  noise,  corresponding  in  intensity  to  the 
nature  of  the  motion,  and  which  would  be  absent  if 
the  motion  were  that  of  a  viscous  body.  It  is  well 
known  that  such  noises  are  heard,  from  the  rudest 
crashing  and  quaking  down  to  the  lowest  decrepita- 
tion, and  they  thus  receive  a  satisfactory  explana- 
tion." The  reader  will  now  be  able  to  comprehend 
the  wonderful  phenomena  presented  by  our  moving 
lands;  a  glacier  does  not  slide  along  its  bed  like  a 
launching  ship  along  her  ways,  nor  does  it  flow,  in 
virtue  of  any  viscous  quality,  like  thick  mud  or 
melted  pitch ;  but  its  motion  is  the  result  of  the 
minute,  almost  molecular,  fracture  and  regelation 
of  the  ice  particles,  which  move  as  if  they  were 
sand,  continually  thawing  and  re-freezing. 

202  MOVING    LANDS. 

We  have  said  that  glaciers  generally  carry  large 
fragments  of  rock,  which  they  deposit  in  confused 
heaps  at  their  lower  extremities.  It  sometimes 
happens,  however,  that  a  glacier  descends  into  a 
lake,  or  into  the  sea,  before  it  melts,  and  large 
masses  of  it,  or  icebergs,  are  floated  off  with  their 
freight  of  rock  fragments.  These  loaded  icebergs 
are  sometimes  carried  great  distances  before  they 
entirely  dissolve,  and  in  this  manner  large  unworn 
angular  blocks  of  rock  may  be  dropped  on  the  bed 
of  the  sea  hundreds  of  miles  from  their  original 

In  many  parts  of  Great  Britain  the  geologist  finds 
heaps  of  gravel  and  sand  containing  large  fragments 
of  rock  which  exactly  resemble  the  terminal  heaps 
or  moraines  of  modern  glaciers.  He  also  finds 
huge  blocks  of  rock  or  boulders  resting  upon  the  bare 
surface  of  rocks  of  quite  a  different  character.  One 
of  the  largest  of  the  boulders  is  situated  at  the 
head  of  the  Devil's  Glen,  in  the  county  of  Wicklow, 
its  dimensions  being  twenty-seven  feet  long,  by 
eighteen  wide,  and  fifteen  high.  It  consists  of 
granite,  and  rests  upon  a  bed  of  slate  six  or  eight 
miles  from  the  granite  district,  a  wide  shallow 
valley  intervening.  Another  large  boulder  of 
granite  has  recently  been  discovered  in  the  chalk 
near  Croydon,  and  geologists  have  come  to  the  con- 
clusion that  this  mass  of  rock  must  have  wandered 
hither  from  the  North  of  Europe. 

These   curious   heaps   and  boulders   prove  that 


"  once  upon  a  time  "  the  glens  of  our  present  moun- 
tains were  encumbered  with  glaciers,  and  that  our 
low  lands  were  entirely  submerged.  By  the  action 
of  these  glaciers  the  rocks  were  scored  and  rounded, 
polished  and  grooved,  and  masses  of  rock  carried 
down  and  heaped  into  moraines;  while  great  blocks 
were  transported  on  fragments  of  those  glaciers 
which  dipped  into  the  sea  and  formed  icebergs, 
being  often  carried  far  over  the  shallow  seas  and 
dropped  many  miles  from  their  parent  sites,  gene- 
rally on  the  banks  and  shallows  (now  the  hill-tops) 
which  arrested  the  laden  icebergs  in  their  course.* 

We  have  said  that  our  moving  lands  advance 
with  great  regularity.  Let  the  reader  glance  at 
the  illustration  which  precedes  this  chapter,  and  he 
will  find  that  our  artist  has  represented  this  motion 
by  the  figure  of  Time  using  his  scythe  as  an  alpen- 
stock, and  sliding  along  with  the  glacier  upon  which 
he  stands. 

*  Professor  Jukes. 


"Day's  dazzling  light  annoys, 
Night's  darkness  only  joys, 
The  cunning  gnomes,  who  dwell 
Deep  underneath  earth's  shell." 

From  the  German. 

REPAIR  we  to  the  home  of  the  Gnomes — to  the 
stalactite  cavern,  where  Fancy  may  revel  and  Ima- 
gination soar  !  Where  every  hue  of  the  rainbow, 
every  sparkle  of  the  gem,  and  every  metal's  sheen 
shall  be  reflected  in  the  light  of  the  torch  we  bear 
in  our  hands ! 

Before  us,  a  perspective  of  brilliancy  ;  a  crystal- 
line canopy  overhead,  which,  in  the  torch  flame, 
sparkles  with  a  myriad  diamond  rays,  and  upon 
whose  surface  multitudes  of  sparry  globules  rival 
the  charms  of  burnished  gold. 

Beauty  and  grace  displayed  everywhere  :  in  the 
architecture  of  the  stalactite  columns  which  support 
the  roof;  in  the  simulated  forms  of  altars,  trees, 
and  stony  organ-barrels  which  meet  our  gaze  on 
every  side  ;  and  in  the  grouping  of  the  transparent 
tubes  which  depend  from  the  ceiling,  now  hanging 

256  THE    GNOMES. 

singly  like  monster  icicles,  now  clustering  into  ele- 
gant chandeliers,  and  now  twirling  in  spiral  and 
festoon,  imitating  the  most  elaborate  Gothic  tracery. 

Passing  onward  through  antechambers  and  cor- 
ridors of  seeming  porphyry  and  jasper,  our  ears  are 
saluted  by  the  trickle  and  fall  of  large  heavy  drops 
of  water,  the  only  sounds  to  be  heard  in  this  vast 
and  wonderful  Gnome  Palace.  Now  we  reach  a 
vaulted  chamber,  the  roof  of  which  is  sustained  by 
arches  springing  from  pillars  of  every  form  and 
colour.  The  floor  is  inlaid  with  chequered  slabs  ; 
the  walls  are  composed  of  broken  and  detached 
masses  of  rock,  piled  one  upon  another  in  pictu- 
resque irregularity  ;  -while  high  above  us  fantastic 
forms  of  stalactite  are  arranged  with  a  grandeur 
beyond  the  workmanship  of  mortal. 

"We  enter  another  apartment  still  more  magni- 
ficent. Its  walls  are  of  purple  marble,  embellished 
with  branching  sprays  of  rock  crystal,  which,  on 
the  purple  ground,  assume  the  hue  of  the  amethyst. 
The  festoons  of  jewelled  flowers,  and  the  brilliant 
scroll-work  of  the  ceiling ;  the  cascades  of  crystal 
suddenly  arrested  into  rigidity,  and  the  uneven 
pavement  of  gold  and  red,  green  and  azure,  under- 
neath our  feet,  combine  to  produce  an  effect  of  un- 
paralleled grandeur.  Our  eyes  are  dazzled  by  the 
scene,  and  our  footsteps  are  arrested  by  a  vague 
terror  born  of  so  much  weird  beauty,  while  our 
mind  is  enthralled  by  its  presence. 

We  are  deep,  deep  down  in  the  bowels  of  the 

THE    GNOMES.  257 

earth,  trespassers  in  the  land  of  the  creatures  whom 
"  light  annoys."  Shall  we  extinguish  our  torch,  and 
so  allow  the  thick  darkness  to  fall  upon  us  like  a 
pall  ?  Shall  we  restore  to  these  subterranean 
chambers  their  native  gloom  1  And  shall  we  in- 
voke, by  such  an  act,  the  presence  of  those  weird 
beings  whom  "  darkness  joys  ?" 

The  consequence  of  our  deed  would  be,  not  an 
apparition  of  the  gnomes,  but  the  loss  of  the  track  by 
which  we  entered  these  gorgeous  caverns  now  grim 
and  gloomy.  Our  danger  would  thus  be  in  the 
absence  of  living  creatures,  and  not  in  their  pre- 
sence. Science,  which  wars  against  ignorance  on 
the  earth  above,  has  descended  to  these  depths  to 
strike  the  sceptre  from  the  hand  of  the  Gnome 
King,  and  to  banish  his  subjects  to  the  mysterious 
regions  of  No-man's-land,  leaving  only  these  jewelled 
caves  to  astonish  and  delight  us. 

The  old  story-tellers,  whose  rich  and  active  fancy 
peopled  the  air  with  sylphs,  and  the  waters  with 
nymphs,  created  the  gnomes  to  be  the  guardians  of 
the  untold  wealth  of  these  subterranean  realms. 
Queer  little  fellows  were  these  underground  people, 
and  wonderful  stories  have  been  related  of  them. 
In  the  night,  when  mortals  were  fast  asleep,  they 
would  sometimes  ascend  to  the  moon-lit  surface  of 
the  earth,  and  dance  about  the  hills  till  cock-crow. 
Some  say  that  they  had  no  music  but  howling  and 
whimpering,  and  that  the  sounds  which  proceeded 
from  their  midnight  assemblies  were  often  mistaken 


258  THE    GNOMES. 

for  the  cries  of  children  and  the  mewing  of  cats. 
They  were  jet  black  and  hideously  ugly,  having 
misshapen  bodies,  large  heads,  and  great  round  eyes, 
always  red  as  if  from  weeping ;  nor  was  their  ill- 
favoured  appearance  redeemed  by  a  sweetness  of 
disposition,  as  they  were  invariably  crabbed  and 
malicious.  We  are  told  that  they  were  cunning 
workers  in  metals,  and  that  the  swords  manufac- 
tured by  them,  were  as  flexible  as  rushes,  and  as 
hard  as  diamonds.  The  gnomes  figured  in  our 
illustration  must  be  the  last  of  their  race  ;  indeed, 
we  are  inclined  to  believe  that  those  quaint  dwarfs 
are  merely  creations  of  our  artist's  fancy. 

The  reader,  however,  must  not  suppose  that  the 
description  we  have  given  of  the  Gnome  Palace  is 
the  offspring  of  imagination.  Such  caverns  do 
really  exist  beneath  the  surface  of  this  planet,  and 
their  fantastic  architecture  is  the  result  of  the  per- 
colation of  water  through  limestone  ;  their  pillars, 
arches,  and  stony  icicles  having  been  moulded 
out  of  the  calcareous  matter  which  the  fluid  dis- 
solved while  infiltrating  through  the  fissures  and 
cavities  of  overlying  beds  of  rock. 

The  Grotto  of  Antiparos,  in  the  Grecian  Archi- 
pelago, is  a  gnome  palace  quite  as  wonderful  as  that 
we  have  just  pictured.  Countless  stalactites  depend- 
ing from  above,  together  with  an  indescribable 
accumulation  of  crystallized  masses  on  the  walls, 
ornament  a  chamber  with  an  arched  roof  upwards 
of  one  hundred  and  twenty  feat  in  length.  The 

THE   GNOMES.  259 

floor  of  this  cavern  is  paved  with  polished  marble 
of  a  delicate  green  colour,  and  the  columns  which 
appear  to  support  the  roof  seem  to  be  formed  of  a 
deep  burning-red  porphyry.  But  this  cavern  is 
merely  the  entrance-hall  of  the  subterranean  palaces ; 
the  principal  apartment  or  throne-room  is  incom- 
parably more  gorgeous.  At  a  depth  of  fifteen  hun- 
dred feet  below  the  surface  of  the  earth,  the  traveller 
finds  himself  in  a  grotto  whose  height  is  one  hun- 
dred feet,  while  it  extends  to  a  length  of  three 
hundred  and  forty  feet.  Here  the  pillars  are  of 
yellow  marble;  petrifactions  resembling  snakes, 
trees,  and  shrubs  abound;  and  in  some  places  icicles 
of  pure  white  glistening  marble  depend  from  the 
roof,  to  a  length  of  ten  feet.  The  tales  told  of  this 
awe-inspiring  gnome  palace  have  assumed  the  tone 
of  the  wildest  romance;  and  its  diamond-spangled 
caves  and  walls  of  ruby  have  been  described  with 
all  the  vividness  of  over-wrought  imagination. 
Nevertheless,  all  this  wondrous  architecture — all 
these  wild  and  fantastic  forms,  and  every  phe- 
nomenon attending  the  production  of  the  roofs, 
sides,  and  floors  of  these  caverns,  can  be  accounted 
for,  as  we  have  said,  by  the  percolation  of  water,  clear 
as  crystal,  but  charged  with  calcareous  material. 

In  these  caverns  we  discover  stalactites  in  every 
stage  of  growth,  and  are  thus  enabled  to  conceive 
how  a  single  specimen  is  formed.  A  drop  of  water 
holding  a  quantity  of  limestone  in  solution  hangs 
from  the  roof,  and  as  the  fluid  evaporates  the  cal- 
s  2 

260  THE    GNOMES. 

careous  matter  is  left  behind.  In  course  of  time  a 
little  conical  button  of  spar  is  formed ;  and  as  fresh, 
matter  is  constantly  being  deposited  from  the  water 
•which  trickles  over  it,  this  button  gradually  assumes 
the  form  of  a  long  stony  icicle.  Again,  the  water 
that  falls  upon  the  floor  of  the  cavern,  instead  of 
hollowing  out  a  cup-shaped  cavity  by  its  continued 
action  during  long  ages,  gradually  builds  up  the 
accumulation  termed  the  stalagmite,  which,  rising 
from  the  floor,  eventually  meets  the  descending 
stalactite,  and  thus  helps  to  form  a  graceful  column. 
When  the  lapidifying  water  oozes  through  a  long 
joint  or  crevice  in  the  roof,  it  forms  a  beautiful 
transparent  curtain  of  spar;  and  when  it  percolates 
through  the  sides  of  the  cave,  it  deposits  its  cal- 
careous particles  in  the  form  of  a  frozen  cascade. 

All  the  sparry  ornaments  of  these  underground 
palaces  were  formerly  held  to  be  the  handiwork  of 
the  gnomes ;  and  in  the  present  day,  those  "  vacant 
of  our  glorious  gains"  in  knowledge,  would  doubt- 
less regard  this  opinion  with  more  favour  than  that 
which  ascribes  the  fantastic  architecture  of  the 
caverns  to  the  formative  power  of  a  myriad  trickling 
drops  of  water. 

Out  of  Gnome-land,  solid  marble  is  deposited  by 
exactly  the  same  process,  wherever  water  holding 
carbonate  of  lime  in  solution  is  brought  into  cir- 
cumstances favourable  to  rapid  evaporation.  Sticks 
and  twigs  hanging  over  brooks  often  become  coated 
with  calcareous  matter;  and  the  incrustation  of 

THE    GNOMES.  261 

birds'  nests,  medallions,  moss,  and  even  old  wigs, 
by  the  action  of  the  petrifying  springs  of  Derby- 
shire, is  known  to  every  one  who  has  visited  that 
romantic  and  interesting  county. 

In  Italy  large  masses  of  solid  and  beautiful 
travertine*  are  deposited  by  some  of  the  springs; 
and  in  the  famous  Lake  of  the  Solfatara,  the  forma- 
tion of  this  stone  is  so  rapid,  that  insects  as  well  as 
the  plants  and  shell-fish  are  frequently  incrusted 
and  destroyed.  A  considerable  number  of  edifices 
in  Italy,  both  ancient  and  modern,  are  constructed 
of  stone  thus  formed.  The  Cyclopean  walls  and 
temples  of  Paestum,  and  the  Colosseum  at  Rome, 
are  built  of  huge  blocks  of  travertine,  which  must 
have  been  deposited  particle  by  particle,  in  lakes 
similar  to  that  of  the  Solfatara. 

But  the  most  remarkable  instance  of  the  rapid 
formation  of  marble  occurs  in  Persia.  The  beau- 
tiful transparent  stone  called  Tabreez  marble  is 
formed  by  deposition  from  the  water  of  a  celebrated 
spring  which  rises  near  Maragha.  Here  the  process 
of  petrifaction  may  be  traced  from  its  first  beginning 
to  its  termination.  In  one  part  the  water  is  per- 
fectly clear ;  in  another  dark,  muddy,  and  stagnant ; 
in  a  third  it  is  quite  black,  and  very  thick;  while 
in  the  last  stage  it  is  as  white  as  snow.  The  petri- 
fied ponds  look  like  frozen  water;  a  stone  thrown 
upon  them  breaks  the  crust,  and  a  black  fluid 

*  The  term  travertine  is  derived  from  the  Tiber,  its  literal 
signification  being  Tiber-stone. 

262  THE   GNOMES. 

exudes  through  the  opening;  but  when  the  process 
of  petrifaction  has  reached  a  certain  stage,  a  man 
may  walk  upon  the  surface  without  wetting  his 
shoes.  The  stony  mass  is  finely  laminated,  and  a 
section  of  it  resembles  an  accumulation  of  sheets  of 
coarse  paper.  Such  is  the  constant  tendency  of  this 
water  to  solidify,  that  the  very  bubbles  on  its  sur- 
face become  hard,  as  if,  by  a  stroke  of  magic,  they 
had  been  arrested  and  metamorphosed  into  marble. 

Return  we  to  our  subterranean  regions,  promising 
that  Ave  will  not  ascend  to  the  surface  again  unless 
such  a  course  should  appear  absolutely  necessary  to 
the  elucidation  of  our  subject.  In  Gnome-land  there 
are  other  wonders  besides  the  capacious  caverns, 
with  their  glancing  roofs  and  walls  and  cluster- 
ing stalactite  columns.  The  hidden  treasures  of 
the  earth — or,  in  more  ordinary  language,  "  the 
bowels  of  the  earth" — are  only  to  be  exceeded  in 
their  wondrous  accumulation  and  occurrence  by 
their  vastness  and  value.  The  gnomes  were  for- 
merly held  to  be  the  legitimate  guardians  of  these 
treasures;  and  for  the  sake  of  our  fairy  tale,  we 
will  suppose  this  view  to  be  founded  on  facts.  As 
mere  story-tellers,  we  may  create  just  as  many 
giants,  fairies,  or  gnomes  as  we  please,  even  though 
we  think  fit  to  destroy  them  afterwards.  Let  us 
therefore  people  our  stalactite  cavern  with  elves 
like  those  to  which  our  artist's  fancy  has  given 

What  a  wonderful  scene  meets  our  mental  vision ! 

THE    GNOMES.  263 

The  grotto  is  filled  with  active  little  •  beings,  all 
busily  employed  in  different  operations  connected 
with  mining  and  metallurgy.  On  every  side  there 
are  miniature  forges,  and  the  ceaseless  clatter  of 
innumerable  tiny  hammers  is  absolutely  deafening. 
Each  little  smith  wields  his  sledge  with  a  super- 
human energy,  and  never  seems  to  require  rest. 
Some  of  the  gnomes  are  digging  holes  in  the  marble 
floor,  and  others  are  carrying  away  the  excavated 
material  in  little  wheelbarrows,  the  like  of  which 
would  make  a  toyman's  fortune.  In  one  part  of 
the  cave  a  crowd  of  miners  are  very  hard  at  work 
with  spade  and  pickaxe,  while  others  near  them  are 
turning  a  windlass,  by  the  action  of  which  a  little 
tram  is  drawn  up  from  the  floor  of  the  cavern  to 
the  roof,  and  probably  much  higher,  as  it  passes 
through  a  fissure  and  remains  out  of  sight  for  some 
time.  When  it  descends,  it  is  either  empty  or 
freighted  with  gnomes  who  come  to  relieve  their 
brethren  at  the  windlass.  Some  of  these  under- 
ground people  are  chipping  shapeless  minerals  into 
regular  geometric  crystals ;  others  are  polishing 
fragments  of  spar;  others  are  casting  metals  into 
beautiful  arborescent  forms.  To  describe  all  the 
various  occupations  of  these  elves  would  take  up 
too  much  time,  and  we  are  therefore  compelled  to 
leave  much  to  the  reader's  imagination. 

The  poet  tells  us  that  "  dazzling  light  annoys" 
the  gnomes,  but  this  statement  is  far  from  being 
true.  The  cavern  is  illuminated  not  by  torches  or 

264  THE    GNOMES. 

candles,  but  by  the  crystals  with  which  its  walls 
and  roof  are  studded.  Each  crystal  is  a  lamp,  every 
cluster  a  dazzling  chandelier,  and  the  scintillation 
of  myriads  of  these  natural  lamps,  produces  an  effect 
of  indescribable  brilliancy. 

But  see,  here  comes  an  aristocratic  gnome,  arrayed 
in  a  tunic  of  asbestos,  and  wearing  a  cap  formed  of 
precious  stones.  He  sits  on  a  little  stalagmite,  and 
looks  up  at  us  with  an  impudent  air,  as  though  he 
thought  us  very  inferior  beings.  This  conceited 
little  jackanapes  has  evidently  something  to  say  to 
us,  so  we  will  assume  a  becoming  gravity,  and 
endeavour  to  become  attentive  listeners. 

"  I  am  the  chief  guardian  of  the  jewels.  To  me 
is  entrusted  the  care  of  the  sparkling  diamond,  the 
flaming  ruby,  the  cerulean  sapphire,  the  green 
emerald,  the  yellow  topaz,  the  purple-streaming 
amethyst,  and  all  the  precious  stones  which  you 
mortals  prize  so  highly."  His  small  mightiness 
pauses  for  a  moment,  probably  to  give  us  time  to 
form  an  adequate  idea  of  his  immense  importance. 

"  As  yo\i  have  been  permitted  to  enter  our  abode," 
he  continues,  "  I  will  reveal  to  you  a  few  secrets 
concerning  the  treasures  I  guard.  You  are  doubt- 
less aware  that  the  diamond  is  merely  a  bit  of 
crystallized  charcoal ;  but  I  trust  you  do  not  think 
meanly  of  this  princely  gem  on  that  account.  Were 
you  to  estimate  the  value  of  things  by  their  com- 
position, the  finest  marble  and  the  coarsest  chalk 
would  be  placed  on  an  equality  :  or  to  choose  an 

THE    GNOMES.  265 

example  from  human  nature,  the  wisest  philosopher 
would  be  no  better  than  the  greatest  dunce.  The 
diamond  is  my  most  precious  charge.  It  surpasses 
all  other  gems  in  hardness  and  lustre,  and  its  beauty 
and  rarity  have  rendered  it  peculiarly  attractive  to 
you  men.  My  richest  diamond  beds  are  situated 
in  the  Brazils  and  in  Bengal,  but  I  have  scattered 
these  gems  over  many  parts  of  the  world.  They 
may  be  found  in  alluvial  deposits  of  sand  and  gravel, 
lying  in  detached  octohedral  ciystals,  sometimes 
with  plain,  but  rnoi'e  frequently  with  rounded  sur- 
faces. When  perfectly  pure  a  diamond  is  as  trans- 
parent as  a  drop  of  the  purest  water,  in  which  state 
it  is  known  to  you  who  live  overhead  as  a  diamond 
of  the  first  water;  and  in  proportion  as  it  falls 
short  of  this  perfection  it  is  said  to  be  of  the  second, 
third,  or  fourth  water,  till  it  becomes  a  coloured 
one.  Coloured  diamonds  are  brown,  yellow,  green, 
blue,  or  red,  the  deeper  the  colour  the  more  valu- 
able they  are,  though  still  inferior  to  those  abso- 
lutely colourless.  Many  of  my  largest  diamonds 
have  fallen  into  the  hands  of  man.  The  famous 
Koh-i-noor,  or  Mountain  of  Light,  was  removed 
from  the  mines  of  Golconda  more  than  three  hun- 
dred years  ago  ;  but,  though  it  was  thus  taken  out 
of  my  keeping,  I  never  lost  sight  of  it,  and  I  was 
exti'emely  pleased  to  see  it  pass  into  the  possession 
of  the  Queen  of  England. 

"  A  slight  sketch  of  the  history  of  this  remark- 
able jewel  may,  perhaps,  be  interesting  to  you.     It 

266  THE    GNOMES. 

•was  first  brought  to  light  by  the  miners  of  Gol- 
conda,  in  the  year  1550,  and  became  the  property 
of  the  reigning  prince.  When  the  Mogul  princes 
extended  their  pretensions  to  the  sovereignty  of  the 
Deccan,  the  Koh-i-noor  passed  from  Golconda  to 
Delhi,  where  it  was  seen  in  1665  by  the  French 
traveller,  Tavernier,  who,  by  the  extraordinary 
indulgence  of  Aurungzebe,  was  permitted  to  handle, 
examine,  and  weigh  it.  In  the  year  1739,  Nadir 
Shah,  the  Persian  invader,  seized  the  precious  jewel 
and  carried  it  back  with  him  ;  but  it  was  destined 
to  pass  from  Persia  as  quickly  as  that  ephemeral 
supremacy  in  virtue  of  which  it  had  been  acquired. 
Soon  after  his  return  the  Persian  conqueror  was 
assassinated  by  his  own  subjects,  and  the  great 
diamond  was  carried  off  by  Ahmed  Shah. 

"  At  the  commencement  of  the  present  century, 
the  treasures  of  Ahmed  were  vested  in  Zemaun 
Shah,  who  was  deposed  and  imprisoned  by  his  bro- 
ther, Shah  Shuja.  For  some  time  the  Koh-i-noor 
was  missing,  but  at  length  it  was  discovered  inge- 
niously secreted  in  the  walls  of  Zemaun  Shah's 
prison.  When  Shah  Shuja  was  expelled  from  Cabul 
by  the  British,  he  contrived  to  make  this  far-famed 
diamond  the  companion  of  his  flight.  He  found 
refuge  at  the  court  of  Runjeet  Singh,  who  demanded 
the  jewel  in  return  for  his  protection,  and  thus  the 
great  diamond  of  the  Moguls  became  the  property 
of  the  warlike  chief  of  the  Sikhs.  You  must  be 
aware  that  the  Koh-i-noor  formed  part  of  the  spoil 

THE    GNOMES.  267 

taken  by  the  English  in  the  Sikh  war  ;  that  it 
was  one  of  the  chief  attractions  of  your  Great  Ex- 
hibition in  1851  ;  and  that  it  has  since  been  recut 
and  placed  among  the  jewels  of  your  queen. 

"  Such  is  the  history  of  that  marvellous  gem  which, 
in  point  of  size,  is  still  without  a  rival,  though  cut- 
ting has  reduced  it  to  little  more  than  one-third  of  its 
original  weight.*  You  would  probably  like  to  know 
something  about  the  previous  history  of  this  stone. 
I  could  tell  you  how  it  was  originally  formed,  and 
how  it  came  to  be  deposited  with  the  gravel  and 
sand  of  Golconda,  but  I  have  my  own  reasons  for 
keeping  these  matters  secret.  Science  will  one  day 
enable  you  to  solve  many  problems  connected  with 
the  formation  of  gems,  and  will  perhaps  teach  you 
how  to  manufacture  Koh-i-noors  from  coal  or  char- 
coal. Till  then  I  shall  keep  my  own  counsel. 

"  Many  of  the  jewels  under  my  care  are  com- 
posed of  alumina,  and  bear  the  same  relation  to 
clay,  that  the  diamond  bears  to  coal.  Of  these 
aluminous  gems  the  rubies  are  the  most  valuable  on 
account  of  their  extreme  rarity,  their  matchless 
hues,  and  the  brilliant  stars  of  light  which  they 
exhibit  when  viewed  in  certain  directions.  The 
sapphire,  another  of  my  precious  charges,  is  merely 
a  blue  variety  of  the  same  substance  as  that  which, 
when  red,  is  called  ruby. 

"  Flint,  or  silica,  forms  the  base  of  innumerable 

*  In  its  rough  state  the  Koh-i-noor  is  said  to  have  weighed 
nearly  800  carats — a  carat  being  3&  troy  grains. 

268  THE    GNOMES. 

mineral  treasures.  Quartz  is  formed  of  pure  silica, 
and  is  often  found  crystallized  in  beautiful  six-sided 
prisms,  ending  in  six-sided  pyramids.  When  co- 
loured by  slight  admixtures  of  other  substances, 
such  as  iron  and  manganese,  quartz  goes  under 
various  names,  according  to  the  variety  and  arrange- 
ment of  colours,  crystalline  form,  and  state  of  trans- 
parency. When  purple,  it  is  called  amethyst,  and 
is  highly  prized  by  you  mortals ;  smoky  quartz  is 
called  cairngorm;  when  blue,  it  is  known  as  side- 
rite  ;  and  when  yellow,  as  Scotch  or  Bohemian  topaz. 
Agate,  jasper,  carnelian,  onyx,  chalcedony  and  opal, 
are  merely  varieties  of  the  same  abundant  substance. 
The  emerald,  again,  one  of  the  most  esteemed  gems, 
is  nothing  but  transparent  flint,  coloured  green  by 
oxide  of  chromium. 

"  My  time  is  precious,  and  although  I  have  given 
you  but  an  imperfect  idea  of  the  mineral  treasures 
that  I  have  to  guard,  I  must  now  leave  you,  as  my 
presence  is  required  at  the  diamond  mines  of  Brazil. 
The  inferior  gnomes  under  my  control  are  conti- 
nually engaged  in  building  up  new  minerals,  in  fill- 
ing empty  veins  with  spar,  in  polishing  crystals, 
and  in  performing  a  thousand  mysterious  processes 
of  a  chemical  or  electrical  nature.  It  is  no  easy 
task,  I  can  assure  you,  to  superintend  these  count- 
less operations,  and  I  need  scarcely  tell  you  that  my 
time  is  fully  occupied — so,  farewell !"  The  gnome 
takes  off  his  jewelled  cap,  makes  a  low  bow,  and 

THE    GNOMES.  269 

But  liei'e  comes  another  little  fellow,  in  far  more 
splendid  habiliments  than  those  of  the  guardian  of 
the  gems.  He  wears  a  complete  suit  of  armour, 
every  plate  of  which  is  formed  of  a  different  metal. 
His  helmet  is  of  gold,  and  surmounted  by  a  grace- 
ful plume,  formed  entirely  of  the  finest  conceivable 
silver  wire.  Everything  about  him  is  metallic,  and 
so  highly  polished,  that  our  eyes  are  fairly  dazzled 
by  the  apparition.  As  he  walks  towards  us,  his 
armour  makes  a  pleasant  jingling  noise  ;  and  as  he 
sits  down  on  the  stalagmite  vacated  by  his  brother 
gnome,  we  hear  such  a  crash,  that  we  half  expect  to 
see  the  elaborate  suit  of  metal  tumble  into  pieces. 

"  I  come  to  speak  to  you  of  the  real  treasures  of 
the  earth,  and  not  of  those  useless  bodies  misnamed 
precious  stones.  I  am  the  keeper  of  the  metals, 
those  wonderful  substances  which  have  been  such 
important  aids  to  human  progress,  and  without 
which,,  indeed,  any  high  degree  of  civilization  were 
impossible.  Unlike  the  jewels  guarded  by  the  boast- 
ful gnome  who  vanished  as  I  approached,  the  metals 
are  not  merely  ornamental,  for  you  must  be  aware 
that  they  are  essential  to  every  process  connected 
with  the  tilling  of  the  soil,  the  building  of  houses 
and  temples,  the  construction  of  roads,  the  manufac- 
ture of  clothing,  the  navigation  of  seas — to  every 
art,  in  fine,  which  elevates  man  above  the  condition 
of  the  brute. 

"I  will  not  attempt  to  describe  the  properties 
of  the  various  metals  confided  to  my  care,  nor  will 

270  THE   GNOMES. 

I  speak  of  the  uses  to  which,  they  are  applied  by 
man,  for  surely  you  ought  to  know  more  about 
human  works  than  a  gnome.  I  shall  merely  allude 
to  the  states  in  which  the  metals  occur  in  these  sub- 
terranean regions,  for  you  must  know  that  they  are 
seldom  to  be  met  with  in  a  state  of  purity."  The 
little  man  of  metal  now  takes  off  his  helmet,  and, 
drawing  his  tiny  legs  under  him  into  a  comfortable 
position,  speaks  as  follows  : — 

"  The  metals  nearly  always  occur  in  the  crude 
state  of  ores.  These  ores  are  sulphides,  oxides,  and 
carbonates  mingled  with  earthy  impurities,  generally 
situated  in  fissures  or  rents  in  the  rocks,  which  are 
called  veins  or  lodes.  I  may  as  well  inform  you  at 
once,  that  these  fissures  are  produced  by  the  uphea- 
val and  depression  of  the  rocks  which  they  tra- 
verse. The  internal  fires  of  this  wonderful  planet 
sometimes  exert  a  force  sufficient  to  raise  vast 
masses  of  rock,  of  unknown  but  immense  thickness, 
from  the  bottom  of  the  sea  high  into  the  air,  in 
order  to  form  dry  land ;  you  may  easily  imagine, 
therefore,  that  this  force  is  also  sufficient  to  crack 
and  rend  the  earth's  crust  in  every  direction,  and 
thus  form  the  veins  in  which  the  metallic  ores  are 

"  The  respective  metals  do  not  always  lie  in  sepa- 
rate veins,  for  though  one  metal  generally  predomi- 
nates, three,  four,  or  even  more  metals  may  be 
strangely  combined  and  'intermixed  in  the  same 
veinstone  ;  thus,  the  vein  which  contains  lead  as 

THE    GNOMES.  271 

the  principal  metal,  frequently  contains  small  quan- 
tities of  silver,  zinc,  and  cobalt ;  manganese  is  often 
associated  with  iron,  while  platinum  is  usually 
mixed  with  gold.  Besides  the  ores  of  metals,  these 
veins  almost  always  contain  quartz,  fluorspar,  crys- 
talline carbonate  of  lime,  and  other  spars. 

"  Ores  and  spars,  however,  are  not  confined  to 
the  deep  fissures  that  occur  in  the  earth's  crust. 
They  find  their  way  into  all  kinds  of  cracks  and 
cavities,  whatever  may  have  been  the  cause  of  the 
hollows,  and  even  into  detached  holes,  often  no 
larger  than  your  fist,  and  completely  surrounded  by 
solid  rock.  Wherever,  indeed,  permanent  hollows 
and  interstices  of  any  kind,  size,  shape,  or  origin 
exist  in  hard  rocks,  crystallized  minerals,  spars,  and 
ores  may  be  formed  in  them. 

"  How  do  these  matters  reach  the  cavities,  is  a 
problem  which  you  will  perhaps  expect  me  to  solve, 
but  if-  so  you  will  be  disappointed.  A  number  of 
clever  mortals  are  striving  to  arrive  at  the  true 
sohition  of  this  mysterious  question,  and  were  I  to 
tell  you  all  I  know,  I  should  be  robbing  some  future 
philosopher  of  the  fame  that  will  accrue  from  a 
great  discovery.  I  will,  however,  give  you  one  or 
two  hints,  which  may  help  you  to  form  some  con- 
ception of  the  mode  in  which  the  veins  and  isolated 
cavities  may  be  filled. 

"Look  around  at  these  walls  of  crystal,  these 
pillars  of  porphyry,  this  floor  of  marble,  and  these 
hanging  stalactites  !  All  these  things  have  been 

272  THE    GNOMES. 

foi-med  since  this  cavern  was  hollowed  out  by  the 
disturbing  forces  of  nature.  How  did  they  find 
their  way  hither,  yo\i  will  perhaps  ask.  They 
came  by  water,  not  in  large  masses,  but  particle  by 
particle,  dissolved  in  the  minute  drops  of  fluid 
which  percolated  through  the  rocks  overhead.  May 
not  the  minerals  have  been  introduced  into  the 
rock-cavities  by  water  also  ?  May  not  each  de- 
tached and  isolated  nest  of  minerals  be  a  miniature 
stalactite  cavern  1 

"If  the  mineral  contents  of  veins  have  not  been 
deposited  from  aqueous  solutions,  they  may  have  been 
introduced  by  sublimation.  Many  of  the  metals 
can  be  converted  into  vapour  by  intense  heat ;  and 
provided  it  be  possible  for  mineral  vapours  to  gain 
access  to  fissures  in  rocks,  it  is  not  impossible  for 
some  of  them  to  be  condensed  and  deposited  on  the 
sides  of  the  lodes. 

"  Gold  ranks  first  among  the  metals,  though  its 
rarity  renders  it  of  less  importance  to  man  than 
some  of  the  less  perfect  ones.  This  kingly  metal 
occurs  in  almost  every  quarter  of  the  globe,  and  is 
obtained  by  the  miner  either  in  the  metallic  or 
native  state,  from  alluvial  sands  and  gravels,  or  from 
veins  in  combination  with  silver,  and  often  mixed 
with  sulphides  of  other  metals.  In  its  native  state  it 
occurs  in  small  crystals,  in  threads,  or  granular 
fragments,  and  in  curiously  shaped  nuggets. 

"  Silver  is  a  still  more  widely  disseminated  pro- 
duct of  nature,  occurring  in  veins  in  granitic  moun- 

THE   GNOMES.  273 

tains,  and  in  the  most  ancient  sedimentary  rocks. 
It  is  sometimes  found  in  a  native  state,  though  less 
frequently  than  gold. 

"  Iron  is  far  more  valuable  than  either  of  the  so- 
called  precious  metals,  and  its  ores  are  scattered 
over  the  crust  of  the  globe  with  a  beneficent  profu- 
sion proportionate  to  the  utility  of  the  metal.  One 
of  your  best  authors  has  well  remarked,  that  he  who 
first  made  known  the  use  of  iron  may  be  truly 
styled  the  father  of  arts  and  author  of  plenty. 

"What  miserable  creatures  you  mortals  would 
be  without  this  marvellous  substance  !  Banish  the 
ploughshare,  the  anchor,  and  the  needle  from  the 
world,  and  there  would  be  an  end  to  agriculture,  to 
navigation,  and  to  the  fashioning  of  clothes.  You 
would  be  reduced  to  the  state  of  barbarism,  and  in 
your  naked  and  forlorn  condition  your  time  would 
be  fully  occupied  in  seeking  your  scanty  meal  of 
acorns,  and  in  paddling  about  in  your  rude  canoe, 
intent  upon  spearing  a  stray  fish  with  your  wooden 
lance.  You  would  cease  to  be  interested  in  '  The 
Fairy  Tales  of  Science,'  and  'the  long  result  of 
time'  could  have  no  possible  attraction  for  a  hungry 
savage  like  you. 

"  Copper,  lead,  and  tin,  are  also  estimable  trea- 
sures ;  indeed,  there  is  not  a  single  metal  which 
has  not  contributed,  or  at  any  rate  may  not  con- 
tribute, to  man's  comfort  and  happiness.  Look  upon 
me  as  the  friend  of  the  human  race,  for  it  is  I  who 
superintend  the  filling  of  the  veins  with  ores,  and 

274  THE   GNOMES. 

all  the  metallurgical  operations  of  nature's  labo- 
ratory. But  here  is  another  gnome  who,  despite 
his  ugliness,  has  quite  as  great  a  claim  to  your  re- 
spect as  I  have.  I  leave  you  with  him."  So  saying, 
the  armour-clad  spirit  vanishes  in  a  most  myste- 
rious manner,  before  we  can  shape  our  grateful 
thoughts  into  words. 

The  gnome  who  now  seats  himself  on  the  sparry 
throne  is  a  sombre-looking  little  imp,  with  some- 
thing so  repulsive,  and  at  the  same  time  something 
so  ludicrous,  in  his  whole  appearance,  that  we  are 
undecided  whether  we  ought  to  run  away  or  burst 
out  laughing.  His  ugly  face  wears  a  very  comical 
expression,  and  is  as  black  as  je't.  His  crooked 
body  is  clothed  in  a  suit  of  shining  black  ;  his  legs 
are  black,  his  feet  are  black  ;  in  fine,  he  is  black  all 
over.  But  what  renders  this  strange  being  so  ter- 
rible, is  a  circle  of  flames  which  surrounds  his  head 
and  forms  a  sort  of  fiery  crown. 

"  I  am  the  gnome  of  the  coal-measures,"  says  the 
little  blackamoor ;  "  those  wondrous  accumulations 
of  ancient  vegetable  matter  that  abound  in  these 
subterranean  realms.  I  need  not  tell  you  that 
coal  is  one  of  the  greatest  treasures  hidden  in  the 
bowels  of  the  earth.  By  it  man  heats  his  apart- 
ments, cooks  his  food,  fuses  the  metals,  and  produces 
steam,  which  sets  all  kinds  of  machinery  in  motion. 
With  it  he  feeds  his  iron  horses,  which  drag  him 
from  place  to  place  with  the  velocity  of  the  wind ; 
and  with  it  he  raises  an  agent  that  propels  his  ships 
along  the  pathless  deep  against  wind  and  tide. 

THE    GNOMES.  27-5 

"  You  are  familiar  with  the  general  aspect  and 
nature  of  coal,  and  are  doubtless  aware  that  it  is 
almost  wholly  composed  of  the  element,  carbon. 
Were  I  to  describe  the  immense  varieties  of  coal 
that  occur  in  nature,  you  would  not  thank  me  for 
my  trouble,  and  would  probably  fall  asleep  long 
before  I  reached  the  end  of  my  list.  These  diffe- 
rent varieties  of  coal  may,  howevei*,  be  grouped 
under  three  heads : — anthracite,  ordinary  or  pit  coal, 
and  brown  coal  or  lignite. 

"  Anthracite  is  a  natural  coke  or  charcoal,  and 
may  be  regarded  as  the  most  completely  mineralized 
form  of  coal.  If  you  handle  a  piece  of  this  sub- 
stance, you  will  find  that  it  does  not  soil  the  fingers 
like  ordinary  coal,  that  it  is  much  heavier,  and  that 
it  has  a  glistening  and  serai-metallic  aspect.  It  is 
not  easily  ignited,  but  when  burning  gives  out  a 
fierce  heat,  and  neither  flames  nor  smokes. 

"  Ordinary  coal  has  many  varieties,  which,  how- 
ever, may  be  classified  into  four  kinds.  The  first 
kind  is  called  caking-coal,  from  its  fusing  or  running 
together  on  the  fire,  so  as  to  form  clinkers.  Splint 
or  hard  coal  comes  next,  which  is  not  easily  broken, 
nor  is  it  easily  kindled,  though  it  affords  a  clear 
and  lasting  fire  when  once  ignited.  Cherry  or  soft 
coal,  is  an  abundant  and  beautiful  kind,  and  highly 
prized  by  mortals.  It  does  not  cake  when  heated, 
it  can  be  broken  with  ease,  and  it  readily  catches 
fire,  requiring  but  little  stirring,  and  giving  out  a 
cheerful  flame  and  heat.  Another  kind  is  called 
T  2 

276  THE    GNOMES. 

cannel  coal.  Ib  is  always  compact,  and  does  not 
soil  the  fingers.  It  varies  much  in  appearance,  from 
a  dull  earthy  to  a  lustrous  wax-like  substance.  The 
bright  shining  varieties  often  burn  away  like  wood, 
leaving  scarcely  any  cinders  and  only  a  little  white 
ash,  while  the  duller  kinds  leave  white  masses  of 
ash,  almost  equal  in  size  and  shape  to  the  original 
lumps  of  coal.  Jet,  of  which  you  make  necklaces  and 
bracelets,  is  merely  an  extreme  variety  of  cannel  coal. 

"  Brown  coal,  or  lignite,  is  a  substance  of  compa- 
ratively recent  formation,  and  it  sometimes  exhibits 
the  structure  of  the  plants  from  which  it  is  derived, 
the  trunks  and  branches  being  plainly  perceptible. 
This  brown  coal  is  only  had  recourse  to  where  there 
are  no  older  beds  beneath,  or  where  they  are  too  far 
down  to  be  reached  by  the  miner. 

"  Although  you  mortals  are  constantly  consuming 
vast  quantities  of  coal  in  your  stoves,  fire-places, 
and  engine-furnaces,  I  give  you  my  word  that  there 
is  quite  enough  in  the  earth's  crust  to  supply  all 
your  wants  for  thousands  of  years  to  come.  Many 
of  the  great  coal-fields  are  as  yet  untouched,  for 
until  the  wood  of  a  new  country  is  used,  and  civi- 
lization has  made  some  progress,  man  never  dreams 
of  looking  for  his  fuel  in  Gnome-land." 

Where  have  we  been?  To  Gnome-land,  or  to 
dream-land1?  The  cavern  and  all  its  weird  inhabi- 
tants have  vanished.  We  are  sitting  at  our  desk, 
with  a  text-book  of  mineralogy  open  before  us,  the 
source  from  which  our  fairy  tale  proceeded. 


Down  to  the  inmost  core  of  this  our  mother  Earth, 
To  the  sad  realm  of  shades,  where  Pluto  sits  enthroned, 
In  gloomy  majesty,  grim  King  of  Death  ; 
And  Phlegethontic  rills  roll  waves  of  lurid  fire — 
There  will  I  lead,  an  thou  wilt  follow  me. " 


THEY  were  brethren  three,  sons  of  Old  Time,  who 
shared  among  them  the  dominion  of  the  world. 
Jupiter,  the  eldest  of  them,  assumed  the  supreme 
rule  of  heaven  and  earth;  to  Neptune  was  given 
the  empire  of  the  sea ;  Pluto  had  assigned  to  his 
sway  the  interior  of  the  earth — the  realm  of  death. 

The  name  of  Pluto  is  taken  from  a  Greek  word 
signifying  wealth,  and  was  therefore  most  appro- 
priately given  to  the  master  of  all  the  hidden  trea- 
sures of  the  earth.  The  Latins  called  the  king  of 
the  infernum,  Dis — i.e.,  Dives,  the  wealthy. 

The  gate  to  the  dominions  of  Pluto  was  guarded 
by  the  many-headed  dog  Cerberus*  To  get  there 

*  Three  heads  only  and  three  necks  are  generally  given  to 
this  marvellous  beast ;  Hesiod,  however,  the  second  father  of 
most  of  those  creatures  of  the  imagination,  yclept  the  gods  of 
Greece,  gives  Cerberus  fifty  heads  ;  whilst  Horace,  more 
bountiful  still,  supplies  him  with  a  hundred  of  these  useful 


you  had  to  pass  the  famous  River  Styx,  or  the  sad 
river.  Over  this  you  were  ferried  by  Charon,  the 
son  of  Hell  and  Night,  for  the  small  consideration 
of  an  obolus*  which  the  ancients,  for  this  reason, 
used  to  put  in  the  mouths  of  the  dead.  But  woe  unto 
those  shadows  whose  bodies  had  had  no  burial :  for 
a  hundred  years  had  they  to  wander  by  the  side  of 
the  river,  before  they  could  hope  to  induce  the  grim 
ferryman  to  carry  them  over.  And  grim  he  was, 
this  ferryman,  and  far  from  prepossessing,  if  the 
portrait  drawn  of  him  by  Virgil  may  be  considered 
a  correct  likeness  : — a  frightfully  ugly  old  man, 
with  glaring  eyes  and  a  bushy,  matted  beard ;  a 
dirty,  dark-coloured  mantle,  fastened  with  a  knot, 
hanging  down  from  his  left  shoulder.  The  River 
Styx,  or  the  Stygian  Lake,  as  it  was  also  called, 
encircled  hell  in  a  sevenfold  embrace.  There  dwelt 
a  marvellous  power  in  the  name,  to  which  even  the 
highest  divinities  were  subject.  If  any  of  the  gods 
swore  falsely  by  it,  a  hundred  years'  exile  from 
heaven,  with  loss  for  that  time  of  all  the  rights, 
privileges,  and  other  appurtenances  belonging  to 
divinity,  punished  the  perjurer.  Four  other  rivers, 
besides  Styx,  flowed  through  the  sad  realms  of 
Death — the  Acheron,  the  Cocytus,  the  Phlegeton, 
and  the  Lethe.  The  Phlegeton  was  a  lake  of  liquid 
fire ;  whoever  drank  of  the  waters  of  Lethe  forgot 
all  that  was  past.  According  to  the  doctrine  of  the 

*  An  Athenian  coin,  worth  about  five  farthings   of   our 


transmigration  of  souls  taught  by  Pythagoras*  in 
the  sixth  century  B.C.,  the  souls  of  the  departed 
were  made  to  drink  the  waters  of  Lethe,  when 
quitting  the  infernal  regions  to  return  to  the  surface 
of  the  earth  to  animate  new  bodies  there. 

Pluto,  the  supreme  lord  and  ruler  over  this 
subterranean  realm,  sat  here  enthroned  in  gloomy 
majesty,  on  a  seat  of  ebony,  a  crown  of  the  same 
wood  encircling  his  "  portentous  brow,"  and  a  two- 
pronged  sceptre  in  his  right  hand.  On  voyages  of 
inspection  through  his  dominions,  he  rode  in  a 
chariot  of  dark  hue,  drawn  by  four  jet-black  steeds. 
No  temples  nor  altars  were  ever  raised  to  him  by 
man  j  no  hymns  ever  chanted  in  his  praise ;  and 
strange  enough,  from  some  tacit  understanding 
among  the  learned  of  all  nations,  evidently  dictated 
by  some  universal  mysterious  intuitive  sense  of  the 
"  fitness  of  things,"  the  starry  heavens  are,  even  to 
the  present  day,  left  without  a  representative  of  his 
name.  Yet  was  he  acknowledged  to  be  a  powerful 
god,  and  trembling  man  would  not  dare  to  with- 
hold from  him  the  propitiatory  sacrifice  :  the  blood 

*  Pythagoras  travelled  through  Egypt,  Central  Asia,  and 
Hindostan  in  search  of  knowledge.  On  his  return  he  opened 
a  school  of  philosophy  in  Lower  Italy,  about  the  time  of 
Servius  Tullius  or  of  Tarquinius  Superbus.  He  believed  in 
the  transmigration  of  souls,  and  affirmed  that  he  could  dis- 
tinctly remember  several  previous  existences  of  his  own.  His 
scholars  yielded  him  the  most  implicit  faith,  and  thought  it 
sufficient  to  reply  to  a  controverting  argument,  ' '  himself 
has  said  it." 


of  black  rams,  spilt  in  a  pit,  was  the  peace-offering 
presented  to  him. 

Pluto's  lord  high- treasurer  and  secretary  of  state 
for  the  financial  department  was  Plulus,  the  God  of 
Wealth,  son  of  Jasius  and  Ceres.  We  find  that  the 
ancient  Greeks  imputed  to  this  god  blindness  and 
folly,  which  in  fact  would  appear  to  have  been  the 
chief  qualifications  that  recommended  him  for  his 
high  office.  He  was  depicted  lame  in  his  approach, 
winged  in  his  departure.  Among  the  other  high 
officers  of  state  in  Pluto's  court,  figured  more  espe- 
cially the  three  fatal  sisters — Clotho,  who  held  the 
spindle,  and  drew  the  thread  of  man's  life  ;  LacJiesis, 
who  spun  it;  and  Atropos,  who  cut  it  asunder  with 
her  relentless  scissors;  the  three  infernal  judges — 
Minos,  the  lord  chief-justice  of  hell,  the  son  of 
Jupiter  and  Europa,  whilom  king  and  lawgiver  of 
the  Cretans;  and  his  two  assistant-judges,  ^Eacus, 
the  son  of  Jupiter  and  ^Egina  ;*  and  RJiadamanthus, 
also  a  Cretan  lawgiver.  These  three  presided  over 
the  great  interminable  commission  of  oyer  and 
terminer,  and  everlasting  universal  jail-delivery, 
held  in  the  infernum.  Before  their  dread  tribunal 
had  to  appear  all  the  shades  of  the  departed ;  no 

*  The  bestowal  of  the  highest  arid  most  important  "offices 
of  state"  upon  the  sons  and  nearest  relatives  of  the  chief 
gods,  affords  a  curious  illustration  of  how  thoroughly  the 
ancients  had  moulded  their  gods  upon  the  model  of  human 
nature,  and  made  them  in  their  own  image.  Thus  we  find 
two  out  of  three  judgeships  of  hell  given  to  sons  of  Jupiter — 
tout  comme  chez  nous. 


appeal  from  their  decrees!  Instant  execution  at- 
tended their  sentences.  The  officials  upon  whom 
devolved  the  execution  of  the  judgments  given  by 
this  model  Star-chamber,  were  presided  over  by 
three  most  unamiable  females,  holding  lighted 
torches  in  their  hands,  and  with  a  fanciful  arrange- 
ment of  snakes  dangling  round  their  heads,  in  lieu 
of  hair — Alecto,  the  never  resting ;  Megcera,  the 
type  of  envy ;  Tisiphone,  the  avenger  of  blood. 

The  empire  of  the  dead  was  divided  into  two 
parts — Tartarus,  or  hell  proper,  and  Elysium,  or 
the  Elysean  fields. 

Tartarus  was  the  place  of  punishment  assigned  to 
the  criminals  condemned  by  the  dark  tribunal. 
Here  might  be  seen  the  Titans  and  the  Giants  who 
had  dared  to  "  war  'gainst  heaven's  king  ;"  here  Sal- 
moneus  of  Elis,  who  had  impiously  attempted  to 
imitate  Jupiter's  thunder  by  rattling  his  torch- 
lighted  chariot  over  a  bridge  of  brass ;  here  the 
robber  Sisyphus,  condemned  to  the  eternal  fruitless 
labour  of  rolling  an  immense  stone  to  the  top  of  a 
high  mountain,  which  it  has  hardly  reached  when 
it  rolls  down  again ;  here  Tityus,  the  giant  offspring 
of  Earth,  who  had  been  so  ill-advised  as  to  compete 
with  Jupiter  for  the  possession  of  Latona,  but  was 
straightways  cast  down  into  hell  by  the  indignant 
god.  Here  he  covered  nine  acres  of  land,  as  he  lay 
stretched  on  the  ground,  with  vultures  on  both  sides 
devouring  his  entrails,  which  kept  on  growing  afresh 
as  fast  as  they  were  eaten  away ;  here  lasion,  tied 
with  serpents  to  an  eternally  turning  wheel,  for 



having  dared  to  aspire  to  the  favours  of  Juno;  here 
Tantalus,  condemned  eternally  to  stand  in  water  to 
the  chin,  and  with  an  abundance  of  pleasant  fruit 
just  at  his  lips,  without  the  power  of  even  once 
satisfying  his  hunger  or  quenching  his  thirst— a 
feai'ful  punishment  indeed,  yet  well  deserved,  for 
that  he,  to  test  the  divinity  of  the  gods,  had  killed 
his  own  son  Pelops,  and  set  the  limbs  before  them, 
baked  in  a  pie ;  here  the  forty-nine  daughters  of 
Danaus,  who,  obedient  to  their  father's  behest,  had 
slain  their  husbands  on  the  wedding  night.  Hy- 
permnestra  alone,  of  the  fifty  daughters  of  the  king, 
had  spared  her  husband  Lynceus,  and  she  alone  was 
therefore  exempt  from  the  punishment  decreed  to 
her  sisters,  who  were  condemned  to  eternally  and 
incessantly  pour  water  into  a  tub  full  of  holes. 

Elysium,  on  the  other  hand,  the  placid  abode  of 
peace  and  contentment,  was  assigned  for  the  habi- 
tation of  the  souls  of  good  and  virtuous  men,  the 
doers  of  heroic  deeds,  and  those  who  had  rendered 
important  services  to  humanity.  Here  the  spirits 
of  the  blessed  wandered  in  serene  happiness,  under 
a  sunny  and  star-spangled  sky,  in  a  pure  atmosphere, 
over  ever-blooming  fields,  and  through  ever-green 
laurel  groves,  continuing  those  pursuits  and  occu- 
pations in  which  they  had  delighted  most  in  their 
terrestrial  career.* 

*  Swedenborg,  the  great  Scandinavian  dreamer  and  seer, 
in  his  account  of  the  "  other  world,"  tells  a  similar  tale  re- 
specting the  pursuits  and  occupations  of  the  spirits  of  the 


Now,  however  so  nice  this  pleasant  little  retreat, 
and  "  fit  for  a  goddess,"  it  would  appear  that  none 
of  these  ladies  could  be  persuaded  by  Pluto  to  share 
his  throne.  Finding  the  honour  of  his  alliance 
everywhere  "  declined,  with  thanks,"  he  took  at  last 
the  desperate  step  of  carrying  off  to  his  subterranean 
realm  Proserpine,  the  daughter  of  his  brother  Jupi- 
ter, and  his  sister  Ceres.  The  bereaved  mother 
lighted  torches  on  Mount  jEtna,  and  incessantly, 
both  by  day  and  night,  sought  for  her  daughter  all 
over  the  world,  but  in  vain.  Informed  at  last  of 
the  whereabout  of  her  daughter  by  the  nymph 
Arethusa,  she  descended  to  the  infernum  to  claim 
the  restitution  of  her  child,  as  she  decidedly  ob- 
jected to  brimstone  matches.  But  Proserpine,  won 
over,  most  likely,  to  Pluto  by  the  splendour  of  his 
throne,  showed  no  great  eagerness  to  comply  with 
mamma's  peremptory  request  to  instantly  "come 
out  of  that ;"  and  poor  Ceres  was  obliged,  as  a  last 
resource,  to  appeal  to  the  justice  and  power  of 
Jupiter.  He  decreed  that  Proserpine  should  return 
to  heaven,  provided  she  had  tasted  nothing  in  hell ; 
but,  unfortunately,  one  of  those  busybodies  who 
are  always  poking  their  noses  into  other  people's 
affairs,  one  Ascalaphus,  son  of  Acheron  and  Orphne, 
stood  forward  as  witness  on  Pluto's  behalf,  deposing 
that  he  had  seen  the  lady  eating  seven  pomegranate 
seeds,  as  she  walked  in  Pluto's  orchard.  Where- 
upon, all  hope  of  a  return  being  gone,  the  angry 
mother  touched  the  luckless  Ascalaphus  with  her 
magic  wand,  and  enriched  the  tribe  of  owls  by  a 


new  species.  It  would,  however,  appear  that 
Jupiter,  afterwards  yielding  to  the  deep  grief  and 
the  incessant  lamentations  of  his  sister,  granted 
that  her  daughter  should  only  live  six  months  in 
the  year  with  her  husband  below,  and  the  other  six 
months  with  the  gods  above. 

Such  as  we  have  here  endeavoured  to  sketch  it 
in  a  few  rapid  outlines,  was  the  kingdom  of  Pluto 
in  the  ideal  conception  of  the  ancient  Greeks,  that 
nation  of  poets.  To  us,  alack  and  alas  for  the 
poetry  of  the  thing — to  us,  the  sons  of  a  hard,  stern, 
matter-of-fact  age,  a  very  different  image  presents 
itself.  We  still  make  use  of  the  name,  indeed,  but  the 
god,  with  all  that  pertained  unto  him,  has  departed 
for  ever  and  ever  more.  Our  "  Pluto's  Kingdom  " 
is  the  mass  of  liquid  fire  that  constitutes  the  inner 
kernel  of  the  earth.  To  us,  he  is  the  Great  Fire- 
King,  and  he  and  his  realm  are  one. 

It  is  now  an  almost  universally  received  notion, 
by  astronomers  as  well  as  by  geologists,  that  this 
globe  of  ours,  as  indeed  all  other  planetary  bodies, 
once  existed  in  a  gaseous  form,  and  was  subsequently, 
by  chemical  combination  of  the  gases  constituting 
it,  and  consequent  evolution  of  heat,  gradually  con- 
densed into  a  glowing,  fusing  mass,  which  being 
whirled  round  in  space,  ultimately  assumed,  under 
the  conjoint  action  of  gravity  and  the  rotatory  pro- 
jecting impulse  inherent  in  it,  its  present  state  and 
orange-shaped  form,  the  surface  or  "crust"  gradually 
cooling  and  hardening  in  process  of  time. 


If  you  wish  to  form  some  intelligible  conception 
of  the  state  and  condition  of  the  earth,  you  need 
simply  go  to  a  foundry,  and  watch  the  cooling  of  a 
cannon-ball  heated  to  redness ;  as  it  cools  you  see 
the  surface  becoming  gradually  covered  with  pelli- 
cles, or  flakes  of  oxide  of  iron,  whilst  a  touch  will 
speedily  convince  you  that  the  heat  beneath  the 
surface  continues  still  unabated ;  and  it  is  only  after 
a  certain  time,  when  the  process  of  cooling  has  ex- 
tended to  the  inner  part,  that  you  may  take  up  the 
ball  without  burning  your  fingers.  Now  proceed  a 
little  further  ;  take  up  a  mass  of  cinder,  or  scoria, 
that  has  cooled,  and  break  it  to  pieces — you  will 
find  that  the  inside  shows  streaks  and  veins  of  dif- 
ferent materials,  and  presents  many  cavities  or  holes, 
called  by  foundrymen  "  honeycomb."  Reflect  now 
that  these  cavities  were  formed  in  the  cinder  while 
yet  in  the  red-hot  state,  either  by  air  or  by  gases. 
Think  that  at  the  bottom  of  these  cavities  there 
once  was  floating  a  small  drop  of  melted  matter. 
Now  bring  your  imagination  into  play,  and  let  that 
cinder  represent  the  earth;  the  cavities  subterra- 
nean caverns  of  many  hundred  square  miles,  and 
the  melted  drop  an  immense  lake  of  liquid  fire, 
burning,  boiling,  heaving  to  the  top,  enlarging  the 
cavern,  melting  away  parts  of  the  crust  nearest  to 
it,  or  swelling  it  up  until  it  cracks,  and  forms  cre- 
vices and  fissures  for  the  escape  of  smoke,  flames, 
and  fused  matter.  Here  you  have,  also,  at  once,  an 
intelligible  theory  of  earthquakes  and  volcanic  erup- 


It  has  been  demonstrated  by  numerous  observa- 
tions made  in  mines,  and  by  Artesian  wells  in  various 
countries,  that  the  temperature  of  the  earth  rapidly 
increases  with  the  depth,  but  that  the  rate  of  aug- 
mentation is  different  at  different  places — in  the 
Northumberland  coal-pits,  for  instance,  one  degree 
Fahrenheit  for  every  44  feet  in  descent ;  in  the  lead- 
mines  of  Saxony,  one  degree  for  every  65  feet ;  in 
the  copper -mines  of  Knockmahon,  county  of  Water- 
ford,  one  degree  for  every  82  feet;  in  the  Dolcoath 
mine,  in  Cornwall,  one  degree  for  every  78  feet. 
Assuming  the  average  increase  of  temperature  to  be 
one  degree  of  Fahrenheit  for  every  60  feet  of  depth, 
and  the  rate  of  increase  to  remain  constant,  at  a 
depth  of  60,000  feet  below  the  surface  of  the  earth 
the  temperature  must  stand  at  1000  degrees  Fah- 
renheit, which  is  that  of  low  red-heat.  But  as  the 
temperature  will  increase  with  the  depth  in  an  aug- 
menting ratio,  Leonhard  assumes  that  the  tempera- 
ture of  a  low  red-heat  would  be  attained  already  at 
a  depth  of  35,000  feet,  or  double  the  height  of 
Cotopaxi,  the  most  remarkable  of  the  Peruvian 
volcanoes.  Descending  still  lower,  to  depths  vary- 
ing from  80  to  160  miles  below  the  surface,  the 
temperature  would  be  found  at  that  depth  to  exceed 
12,000  degrees  Fahrenheit — a  heat  sufficient  to 
melt  most  of  the  known  rocks.  But  considering 
that  the  dense  fluid  portions  of  the  earth  are  most 
probably  much  better  conductors  of  heat  than  the 
crust,  it  may  safely  be  assumed  that  this  high 


temperature  is  acquired  at  a  still  less  depth.  Were 
we  to  proceed  down  to  the  very  centre  of  the  earth, 
we  should  there  find,  supposing  a  regular  rate  of 
progression  in  the  increase  of  temperature,  a  heat 
exceeding  3500  degrees  of  Wedgewood's  pyrometer, 
or  something  like  450,000  degrees  Fahrenheit! 
The  solid  crust  of  the  earth  is  generally  supposed 
to  be  only  from  60  to  100  miles  thick;  and  it  is 
probably  even  much  less ;  that  the  thickness  is  very 
unequal  is  shown  by  the  variation  of  temperature, 
which  cannot  be  attributed  solely  to  different 
degrees  of  conductibility  in  different  parts.  The 
process  of  cooling  from  the  crust  downwards  is,  of 
course,  still  going  on,  but,  as  has  been  demonstrated 
by  Fourier,  at  a  less  rate  than  was  formerly  the 
case.  According  to  the  same  authority,  it  will 
require  30,000  years  to  reduce  the  increase  of  tem- 
perature on  descending  into  the  interior  of  the  earth 
from  its  present  rate  of  one  degree  Fahrenheit  for 
every  60  feet  in  descent,  to  one-half  degree.  Some  geo- 
logical chemists  have  calculated  from  the  known  laws 
of  radiation  of  heat,  that  it  would  take  200,000,000 
years  to  cool  the  earth  to  its  centre ! 

Another  point  to  consider  is  the  density  of  the 
earth.  The  density  of  the  crust  lies  between  2'7 
and  2'9 ;  but  we  know,  from  most  careful  and  accu- 
rate pendulum  experiments,  that  the  average  density 
of  the  bulk  of  the  earth  is  about  5-5.  It  is  quite 
evident,  therefore,  that  the  ponderable  matter  of 
the  interior  must  be  very  much  denser  than  that  of 


the  crust.  The  generally  received  notion  is  that, 
assuming  the  radius  of  the  earth  to  measure  4000 
miles  in  round  numbers,  and  dividing  it  into  ten 
equal  parts  of  400  miles  each,  the  density  of  the 
materials  severally  constitutiDg  the  ten  divisions 
increases  in  an  arithmetical  progression  by  about 
1  '5  for  each  part,  which,  taking  the  density  of  the 
first  annular  space  of  400  miles  at  2 '7,  gives  for  the 
second  4 '2,  for  the  third  5 '7,  and  so  on,  the  density 
of  the  central  portion  being  about  16 '2. 

In  Cordiers  purely  thermometrical  theory  as  to 
the  nature  and  mode  of  action  of  the  great  ele- 
vating force  that  has  at  successive  periods  raised 
and  broken  the  earth's  crust,  lifting  up  various 
igneous  or  plutonic  rocks,  and  forcing  them  into 
the  cracks  and  fissures,  the  central  nucleus  of 
the  earth  is  considered  in  the  light  of  an  immense 
sea  of  molten  mineral  matter.  As  the  solid  crust 
continues  to  contract  as  its  temperature  decreases 
in  a  greater  ratio  than  the  central  mass,  and  the 
velocity  of  rotation  increases  as  the  diameter  of  the 
globe  shortens,  a  tendency  will  necessarily  be  in- 
duced to  additional  divergence  from  the  spherical 
form,  and  the  fluid  matter  within  will  accordingly 
press  against  the  contracting  crust,  and  thus  pro- 
duce volcanic  eruptions. 

M.  Cordier  has  calculated  that  a  contraction  of 
T^lrBir  °f  an  incn  in  *ne  mean  radius  of  the  earth 
would  be  sufficient  to  force  out  the  matter  of  a 
volcanic  eruption.  And  a  most  wise  arrangement 


of  the  Supreme  Intelligence  it  is,  which  has  left 
open  to  King  Pluto  these  ready  means  of  forcing 
an.  outlet ;  and  man  ought  to  feel  rather  thankful 
when  he  beholds  the  flaming  head  of  the  Fire  King 
towering  above  the  crater  of  some  volcano.  Earth- 
quakes surely  are  much  more  terrible  and  destruc- 
tive than  volcanic  eruptions. 

A  volcano  may  be  defined  as  a  perpendicular 
tunnel  in  the  earth's  crust,  through  which  heated 
matter  from  below  is  thrown  up  to  the  surface.  The 
matter  thrown  up  may  be  in  the  form  of  lava,  scoriae, 
ashes,  mud,  &c.  The  tunnel  or  fissure  is  generally 
called  the  chimney,  vent,  or  chasm  of  the  volcano. 
The  upper  part  of  the  chimney  is  called  the  crater ; 
it  always  presents  the  form  of  an  inverted  cone,  or 
the  shape  of  a  funnel  with  the  broad  part  upward. 
A  distinction  is  made  between  so-called  craters  of 
eruption  and  craters  of  elevation. 

Craters  of  eruption  are  formed  by  the  boiling 
streams  of  lava,  the  floods  of  hot  mud,  or  tuf,  and 
the  showers  of  ashes  and  cinders  gathering  or  falling 
around  the  mouth  of  the  vent  or  chimney  of  a 
volcano.  In  proportion  to  the  continuance  of  the 
eruption,  and  its  repetition,  successive  beds  of  vol- 
canic products  will  accumulate  round  the  mouth, 
and  form  themselves  into  the  shape  of  a  sugar-loaf 
or  cone. 

Craters  of  elevation,  on  the  other  hand,  are  formed 
by  the  matter  of  the  volcanic  eruption  lifting  the 
horizontal  strata  in  which  the  crater  is  formed,  until 


the  beds  snap,  and  rest  in  highly  inclined  planes 
about  the  mouth  of  the  fissure. 

It  occurs  also  occasionally  that  both  kinds  of 
craters  are  found  in  one  mountain. 

The  lava  in  a  crater  may  be  burning  and  boiling 
for  years,  without  either  an  eruption  of  scoriae  or 
an  overflow  of  lava  taking  place ;  a  multitude  of 
small  conical  vents  are  formed,  however,  in  such 
cases,  which  rise  out  of  the  cooled  surface  of  the 
melted  lava,  and  incessantly  emit  volumes  of  smoke 
and  sulphurous  vapour.  A  vent  of  this  kind  is 
called  in  Europe  a  Fumerole  or  Mqffet,  and  in  Mexico 
a  Hornito,  or  small  oven.  Other  vents  also  are  pro- 
duced occasionally  on  the  walls  of  the  crater,  or  on 
the  sides  of  the  mountain,  by  the  jets  of  scoriae 
thrown  up  accumulating  in  falling  round  the  mouth 
of  the  vent. 

The  number  of  volcanoes  is  very  great,  more  than 
300  of  them  being  known  to  exist  in  the  world  at 
the  present  time,  of  which  24  are  in  Europe,  11  in 
Africa,  46  in  Asia,  114  in  America,  and  108  in 
Oceania.  Most  of  the  islands  of  the  Pacific,  and 
many  isles  of  the  Atlantic  and  Indian  Oceans,  are 
also  volcanic,  or  else  composed  of  volcanic  rocks. 

The  most  ancient  volcanoes  known  are  Mount 
Vesuvius  in  Italy,  Mount  JEtna  in  Sicily,  and 
Stromboli,  one  of  the  Lipari  Islands,  near  Sicily. 
Stromboli  is  always  burning,  which  has  gained  it 
the  name  of  "  the  great  lighthouse  of  the  Medi- 


Mount  Vesuvius  gave  its  first  notice  of  action  in 
A.D.  73,  when  it  did  much  injury  to  houses  and 
villages  upon  its  flanks.  From  73  to  79  there  were 
several  small  shocks,  and  in  August  of  the  latter  year 
occurred  that  awful  eruption  of  ashes  which  de- 
stroyed the  cities  of  Herculaneum,  Pompeii,  and 
Strabiae,  and  caused  the  death  of  the  elder  Pliny. 
From  79  to  1036,  six  other  eruptions  of  ashes,  sand, 
and  shattered  fragments  of  lava  took  place  ;  in  the 
latter  year  occurred  the  first  authentic  overflow  of 
lava,  which  was  repeated  in  1049  and  1138.  After 
this  the  mountain  rested  for  one  hundred  and  sixty- 
eight  years.  Another  great  eruption  then  took 
place  in  1306,  and  a  slight  one  in  1500,  followed 
by  another  repose,  which  lasted  till  1631,  when  a 
fearful  eruption  took  place,  blowing  up  into  the  air 
the  forest  of  brushwood  that  covered  the  sides  of 
the  mountain,  and  the  luxuriant  grassy  plain  at  the 
bottom.  Passing  over  several  other  eruptions  of 
the  mountain,  we  come  to  the  one  in  October,  1822, 
which  lasted  nearly  a  month,  and  was  attended  by 
a  series  of  loud  detonations  and  explosions.  Between 
1800  and  1822,  the  vast  crater  formed  in  1631  was 
gradually  getting  filled  up  with  lava,  cinders,  and 
ashes,  the  bottom  presenting  a  rugged,  rocky  plain, 
covered  with  scattered  blocks  of  lava  and  heaps  of 
cinders.  In  this  eruption  of  October,  1822,  the 
force  from  below  broke  up  this  aggregation  of  lava 
blocks  at  the  bottom,  and  hurled  them  all  into  the 
air,  leaving  behind  a  tremendous  chasm,  above 


three  miles  long,  and  three-fourths  of  a  mile  across. 
The  depth  of  this  chasm  was  at  first  about  2000 
feet,  but  as  the  walls  of  the  crater  continued  to  fall 
in,  it  became  eventually  reduced  to  less  than  half 
that  depth.  Previous  to  this  eruption,  the  summit 
of  the  cone  round  the  crater  had  been  4200  feet 
high ;  after  the  eruption  its  elevation  was  found  to 
be  reduced  to  3400  feet.  Another  eruption  took 
place  in  1833,  and  even  as  late  as  1857  and  1858 
has  Mount  Vesuvius  given  uncomfortably  convincing 
indications  that  it  continues  as  much  "  alive"  as  ever. 

Mount  jEtna,  in  Sicily,  rises  10,874  feet  above 
the  level  of  the  sea,  of  which  the  lower  or  bottom 
part,  to  the  extent  of  some  three  thousand  feet,  con- 
sists of  calcareous  beds,  associated  with  lavas  and 
clays ;  the  remaining  7000  or  8000  feet  have  been 
formed  by  successive  eruptions  from  the  volcano. 
The  upper  1100  feet  consist  of  the  cone  of  the 
crater,  which  rises  from  an  irregular  plain,  about 
nine  miles  in  its  circumference.  The  great  crater 
in  the  summit  of  this  cone  is  perpetually  emitting 
sulphureous  vapours. 

One  of  the  most  remarkable  volcanoes  is  that  of 
Kilauea,  in  the  Sandwich  Islands,  which  burns  con- 
tinually, and  whose  crater  contains  a  sea  of  red-hot 
melted  lava,  sometimes  several  miles  in  diameter. 

The  loftiest  volcanoes  known  are  those  of  Orizaba 
in  Mexico,  and  Antisana  and  Aconagua  in  South 
America,  which  are  from  three  to  five  miles  in 


Mount  Jorutto,  in  Mexico,  affords  a  curious  illus- 
tration of  volca-nic  action  combined  with  extensive 
elevation.  This  vast  mountain  rises  in  the  great 
plain  of  Malpays,  which  up  to  June,  1759,  was 
never  suspected  to  be  the  site  of  a  volcano,  although 
the  basaltic  hills  of  the  neighbourhood  clearly  in- 
dicate that  the  district  had  at  some  very  early 
period  been  the  theatre  of  volcanic  eruptions,  which 
had  filled  up  the  original  valleys. 

In  the  month  of  June,  1759,  hollow  murmurings 
began  to  be  heard,  speedily  attended  by  earthquakes, 
which  followed  each  other  in  rapid  succession  up 
to  the  month  of  September.  The  surface-soil  at  last 
swelled  up  like  a  large  bladder,  three  or  four  miles 
square  ;  it  finally  burst  open  in  various  parts,  flames 
issuing  forth  through  the  fissures,  and  burning  frag- 
ments of  rocks  being  thrown  up  high  into  the  air. 
Six  conical  vents  were  thus  formed  in  different 
parts  of  the  area,  of  which  the  lowest  was  800  feet 
high.  Besides  these,  thousands  of  small  cones  or 
bosses  arose,  which  cracking  subsequently  emitted 
aqueous  and  sulphureous  vapours.  These  bosses  are 
called  in  the  country  Hornitos,  or  small  ovens. 

Towards  the  close  of  the  month  of  September,  the 
vast  mountain  Jorullo  was  pushed  up  bodily  in  a 
few  days,  by  the  subterranean  force,  to  an  elevation 
of  1 682  feet  above  what  had  been  a  plain  up  to  the 
preceding  month  of  June.  The  crater  of  Jorullo 
threw  out  immense  streams  of  basaltic  lava,  which 
continued  to  flow  till  February,  1760,  after  which 


the  district  resumed  its  former  stability,  though  it 
still  remained  far  too  hot  to  be  habitable.  In  1780, 
twenty  years  after  the  outburst,  the  heat  of  the 
hornitos  was  still  so  great  that  a  cigar  could  readily  be 
lighted  by  plunging  it  two  or  three  inches  into  one  of 
the  lateral  cracks.  When  Humboldt  visited  Jorullo 
in  1803,  forty-three  years  after  the  eruption,  he 
found  around  the  base  of  the  great  cone  a  mass  of 
matter,  of  convex  form,  about  500  feet  high,  near 
the  cone,  but  sloping  gradually  as  it  receded  from 
it;  this  mass,  which  covered  to  the  extent  of  four 
square  miles,  was  then  still  in  a  heated  state.  And 
twenty-two  years  later,  in  1825,  Mr.  Bullock  found 
the  cones  still  smoking. 

Previous  to  the  outburst,  two  purling  streams 
had  watered  the  plain  of  Malpays,  the  Outimbo, 
and  the  San  Pedro.  These  two  rivers  ran  into  the 
crater,  and  lost  themselves  below  at  the  eastern 
limit  of  the  plain,  but  reappeared  afterwards  on  the 
western  limit  as  hot  springs. 

Among  the  productions  of  volcanoes,  emitted 
or  ejected  through  their  craters  and  vents,  may  be 
enumerated  various  gases  —  such  as  hydrochloric 
acid  gas,  carbonic  acid,  hydrosulphuric  acid,  and 
gases  formed  by  the  several  combinations  of 
sulphur  with  oxygen  ;  aqueous  vapour,  lava,  mine- 
rals, cinders,  stones,  sand,  water,  mud,  and  ashes — 
which  latter  probably  consist  simply  of  pulverized 

The  quantity  of  ashes  discharged  by  volcanoes 


must  be  immense.  During  an  eruption  of  Mount 
Cosiguiana,  a  volcano  in  the  Gulf  of  Fonseca,  on  the 
shores  of  the  Pacific,  ashes  fell  as  far  as  Truxillo,  on 
the  shores  of  the  Gulf  of  Mexico ;  also  on  board  a 
ship  at  the  time  some  1200  miles  westward  of  the 
volcano ;  and  four  days  after  the  eruption,  at 
Kingston,  in  Jamaica,  700  miles  eastward  from  it, 
having  travelled  there  by  an  upper  current  of  west 
wind,  at  the  rate  of  170  miles  a  day.  For  about 
thirty  miles  to  the  south  of  this  volcano,  ashes 
covered  the  ground  three  yards  and  a  half  deep  ; 
and  thousands  of  cattle,  wild  animals,  and  birds, 
perished  under  them. 

One  of  the  most  curious  productions  of  a  volcano 
is  mud.  The  aqueous  vapour  emitted  by  the  crater 
being  condensed  by  the  cold  atmosphere,  heavy  rains 
are  produced,  which,  falling  upon  the  volcanic  dust 
on  the  sides  of  the  mountain,  form  a  current  of  mud, 
generally  called  aqueous  lava,  which  is  more  dreaded 
by  those  dwelling  in  the  vicinity  of  a  volcano  than 
a  stream  of  melted  lava.  But,  after  all,  as  this 
muddy  stream  is  not  actually  ejected  from  the  crater, 
but  simply  formed  on  the  surface  of  volcanoes  by 
the  action  of  water  upon  the  erupted  matter,  the 
term  "  mud  volcano"  is  not  exactly  applicable  in 
such  cases. 

However,  in  some  volcanic  districts  mud  is  occa- 
sionally found  to  ooze  from  the  ground,  and  there 
are  also,  in  different  parts  of  the  globe,  real  mud 
volcanoes,  as  for  instance,  the  mud  volcano  of  Jok- 


rnali,  on  the  peninsula  of  Abscheron,  in  the  Caspian 
Sea;  that  of  Damak,  in  the  province  of  Samarang, 
in  the  island  of  Java;  the  Salses  of  Girgenti  in 
Sicily,  and  Sassueto  in  Northern  Italy,  &c.,  &c. 

One  of  the  most  remarkable  of  this  class  is  the 
one  described  by  Humboldt.  This  is  situated  at 
Turbaco,  near  Carthagena,  in  New  Grenada,  South 
America.  It  consists  of  some  fifteen  or  twenty  cones 
from  nineteen  to  twenty -five  feet  high,  and  measur- 
ing round  the  base  from  seventy-eight  to  eighty-five 
feet  each.  These  cones,  or  Volcancitos,  as  they  are 
called  in  the  language  of  the  country,  have  a  hollow 
on  the  top,  measuring  from  fifteen  to  thirty  inches  in 
diameter,  and  filled  in  the  driest  seasons  with  muddy 
water,  through  which  air-bubbles  are  constantly 
escaping :  the  temperature  of  the  water  is  not  higher 
than  that  of  the  surrounding  atmosphere. 

Earthquakes  are  intimately  connected  with  vol- 
canoes; they  often  precede  volcanic  eruptions,  and 
arise  from  the  same  cause — viz.,  from  the  movement 
of  matter  in  the  interior  of  the  earth;  only  that 
their  action  is  much  more  formidable  and  destructive, 
and  the  changes  produced  by  them  in  the  globe  are 
much  more  varied  and  extensive.  Landslips  on  the 
sides  of  mountains  are  most  frequently  attributable 
to  them;  they  give  rise  to  the  formation  of  new 
lakes,  and  cause  old  ones  to  disappear;  islands  are 
swallowed  up  by  them,  and  new  ones  arise  in  the 
sea  as  by  magic;  parts  of  continents  subside  and 
sink,  and  others  are  elevated;  the  relative  positions 


of  sea  and  land  are  changed,  and  rivers  quit  their 
former  courses  and  ancient  beds,  seeking  other 
channels  and  forming  new  beds. 

The  action  or  movement  of  earthquakes  is  three- 
fold— vertical,  horizontal,  and  gyratory  or  circular. 

The  vertical  movement  proceeds  from  below 
upwards,  and  may  be  likened  to  the  explosion  of  a 
mine  in  a  stone  quarry.  It  produces  cracks  and  fis- 
sures in  the  earth's  crust.  In  many  instances,  the 
earth  opens  and  closes  rapidly;  in  others,  portions 
of  the  crust  slip  down  into  the  chasm,  and  disappear 
for  ever.  It  was  by  a  vertical  earthquake  move- 
ment that  the  city  of  Messina,  in  Sicily,  was  des- 
troyed in  the  year  1783.  These  vertical  movements 
are  felt  even  at  sea.  Thus,  for  instance,  during  the 
celebrated  earthquake  at  Lisbon,  in  1755,  many 
ships  at  considerable  distances  from  the  actual  focus 
of  the  movement,  were  violently  shaken,  the  con- 
cussion in  one  ship  far  out  in  the  Atlantic  being 
so  great,  that  the  men  were  tossed  up  into  the 
air  a  foot  and  a  half  perpendicularly  from  the  deck. 

In  the  horizontal  movement,  the  shock  is  propa- 
gated in  a  linear  direction,  producing  undulations 
in  the  surface  of  the  earth,  bearing  some  resemblance 
to  the  waves  of  the  sea,  and  the  sight  of  which, 
curious  enough,  causes  a  swimming  in  the  head, 
like  sea-sickness. 

These  undulatory  shocks  in  a  linear  direction 
must  of  course  be  understood  to  move  in  waves  of 
great  breadth  as  well  as  length.  The  horizontal 


earthquake  movement  which  visited  Syria  in  1837, 
was  felt  in  a  line  five  hundred  miles  long,  by  ninety 
miles  wide. 

In  accordance  with  a  general  law  in  mechanics, 
the  undulations  of  horizontal  earthquake  movements 
finish  by  cracking  the  superficial  soil  and  strata  of 
the  earth's  crust.  In  the  earthquake  which,  in 
1811,  convulsed  the  district  of  New  Madrid,  South 
Carolina,  the  surface  earth  between  New  Madrid 
and  Little  Prairie  rose  in  great  undulations  to  a 
considerable  height,  till  the  earth  waves  burst, 
when  volumes  of  water  and  sand,  and  masses  of  pit- 
coal,  were  hurled  up  through  the  crevices  high  into 
the  air;  large  lakes  of  twenty  miles  in  extent  were 
on  this  occasion  formed  in  the  course  of  a  single 
hour,  whilst  some  of  the  ancient  lakes  of  the  dis- 
trict were  drained  and  completely  dried  up. 

As  a  general  rule,  horizontal  shocks  proceeding 
onward  unresisted,  are  not  considered  to  be  very 
dangerous.  The  most  terrible  horizontal  earth- 
quakes are  those  where  the  shocks,  proceeding  from 
two  different  foci  of  action,  happen  to  cross  each 
other.  A  town  standing  on  the  ground  at  the 
point  of  intersection  of  the  two  waves  has  little 
chance  indeed  of  escaping  the  crash  and  crush  pro- 
duced by  their  meeting. 

In  the  circular  or  gyratory  movement,  the  earth- 
quake action  moves  in  a  circuit,  sometimes  very 
extensive,  in  other,  but  rare  instances,  of  very  small 
compass ;  in  the  latter  case,  the  movement  proves 


generally  most  dangerous  and  destructive,  of  which 
the  earthquakes  at  Quito,  in  1797,  and  in  Calabria, 
in  1783,  afford  convincing  illustrations.  In  cases  of 
this  description  it  has  happened  that  solid  walls 
have  changed  their  place,  with  the  masonry  perfectly 
undisturbed  ;  rows  of  trees  straight  and  parallel 
have  been  inflected  ;  and,  more  remarkable  still, 
entire  fields,  with  different  sorts  of  grain  growing  in 
them,  have  exchanged  places  and  crops  !  Humboldt 
tells  us  that  at  Riobamba,  South  America,  destroyed 
by  the  terrific  convulsion  of  1797,  he  was  shown  a 
place  among  the  ruins  where  the  whole  furniture  of 
one  house  had  been  carried  bodily  by  the  movement 
of  the  earthquake  under  the  roof  of  another. 

As  an  illustration  of  a  circular  movement  upon 
an  immense  scale,  may  be  instanced  the  famous 
earthquake  which  destroyed  Lisbon  in  November, 
1 755,  and  afforded  the  great  Pombal  the  opportunity 
of  erecting  those  solid  wooden-framed  stone  build- 
ings that  have  so  gloriously  withstood  later  shocks, 
even  up  to  periods  so  recent  as  November,  1855, 
and  November,  1858.  The  shock  in  this  instance 
•was  felt  in  many  parts  of  Europe,  and  on  the  north 
coast  of  Africa,  as  well  as  in  North  America  and 
the  West  Indies. 

As  has  already  been  intimated,  earthquakes  are 
generally  attended  with  more  or  less  extensive  ele- 
vation or  subsidence  of  land.  We  will  give  here  a 
few  instances  in  illustration. 

In  the  earthquake  which  visited  Jamaica  in  1692, 


several  large  storehouses  in  the  harbour  of  Port 
Royal  subsided  to  a  depth  of  between  twenty-four 
and  forty-eight  feet  under  water,  apparently  without 
disturbing  the  masonry,  as  the  buildings  remained 
standing,  with  the  tops  of  the  chimneys  erect  above 
the  water.  A  large  tract  of  land  around  the  town, 
about  1000  acres  in  extent,  subsided  in  less  than  a 
minute,  and  was  covered  over  by  the  waters  of  the 

The  fearful  shock  which  destroyed  Lima,  in  Peru, 
in  1746,  submerged  the  entire  coast  near  Callao, 
converting  it  into  a  bay  of  the  sea. 

In  the  great  earthquake  of  1755,  the  new  quay,  at 
Lisbon,  then  recently  built  of  massive  and  solid  marble, 
on  which  a  vast  number  of  people  had  collected  for 
safety,  sank  suddenly  down  with  its  living  load,  and 
not  one  of  the  bodies  ever  rose  to  the  surface  again  ; 
and,  more  extraordinary  still,  a  number  of  boats 
and  ships  lying  at  anchor  a  little  distance  off  the 
quay,  went  suddenly  down  with  the  body  of  water 
beneath  them  as  into  a  whirlpool,  and  not  a  frag- 
ment of  the  wrecks  was  ever  after  seen  ;  upon 
sounding  the  spot  afterwards,  it  was  ascertained  to 
be  some  600  feet  deep. 

Before  the  earthquake  which  visited  Messina  in 
1783,  the  ground  along  the  port  of  that  city  was 
perfectly  level ;  after  the  shock  it  was  found  to  slope 
considerably  towards  the  sea,  the  latter  itself  getting 
deeper  and  deeper  as  the  distance  from  the  shore 
increased — an  indication  that  the  sloping  of  the 


coast  continued  far  under  the  water,  and  that  ac- 
cordingly the  bottom  of  the  sea  must  have  sunk  as 
well  as  the  shore. 

During  the  same  earthquake,  many  houses  in  the 
streets  of  the  town  of  Terra  Nova,  in  Calabria,  were 
raised  above  their  usual  level,  others  sank  down  in 
the  ground.  Near  the  town  was  a  circular  tower  of 
solid  masonry  ;  part  of  this  tower  remained  uude- 
stroyed,  but  one  side  of  it  was  lifted  up  by  the 
action  of  the  earthquake  much  above  the  other,  the 
foundations  of  the  upraised  portion  being  laid  bare 
to  the  view  ;  though,  strange  to  say,  the  divided  walls 
were  found  to  adhere  throughout  as  firmly  to  each 
other,  and  to  fit  as  closely,  as  if  they  had  been  so 
constructed  on  purpose,  and  cemented  together  from 
the  beginning. 

Towards  the  close  of  last  century  a  remarkable 
subsidence  took  place  in  North  America,  just  above 
the  falls  of  the  Columbia  River.  In  1807,  American 
travellers  found  here  a  forest  of  pines  under  water, 
standing  erect  in  the  body  of  the  river. 

The  most  extensive  elevation  of  land  by  earth- 
quake is  that  which  took  place  in  1822,  on  the  coast 
of  Chili,  South  America,  in  which  an  area  of  about 
100,000  square  miles,  was  raised  three,  four,  six, 
and  seven  feet  above  the  former  level. 

In  1819,  a  great  subsidence  of  land  took  place  at 
the  mouth  of  the  river  Indus,  in  Hindostan,  the 
bed  of  the  river  sinking  eighteen  feet;  the  sea 
rushing  into  the  mouth  of  the  Indus,  in  a  few  hours 


converted  a  tract  of  land  of  some  2000  square 
miles  area,  into  an  inland  sea.  To  the  north-west 
of  the  subsided  district,  and  running  in  a  parallel 
direction  with  it,  one  of  the  level  plains  about  this 
region,  some  fifty  miles  in  length  from  east  to  west, 
and  about  sixteen  miles  wide  from  north  to  south, 
was  uniformly  raised  ten  feet  above  the  level  of  the 

We  will  now  dismiss  this  part  of  the  subject  with 
a  mere  passing  allusion  to  the  well  known  changes 
of  level  of  the  celebrated  temple  of  Puzzuoli,  near 
Naples  ;  the  rising  and  sinking  of  the  land  in  Scan- 
dinavia ;  and  submarine  forests  on  the  shores  of 
England,  France,  North  America,  &c.  ;  and  will 
conclude  this  chapter  with  a  few  brief  remarks 
about  submarine  volcanoes  and  extinct  volcanoes. 

The  subterranean  fires,  the  source  and  cause  of 
volcanic  eruptions  and  earthquakes,  act  also  on  the 
beds  which  form  the  bottom  of  the  sea.  When  the 
vents  formed  by  volcanic  action  lie  beneath  the 
waters  of  the  ocean,  they  are  called  "  submarine 
volcanoes."  The  existence  and  action  of  submarine 
volcanoes,  long  suspected  and  conjectured,  has  since 
the  beginning  of  this  century  been  clearly  proved, 
by  the  formation  of  new  islands  above  the  waters 
of  the  ocean. 

The  first  well-ascertained  instance  of  the  eleva- 
tion of  a  new  island  by  a  submarine  eruption, 
occurred  in  1811,  near  St.  Michael,  in  the  Azores. 
Various  eruptions  had  at  different  times  taken 


place  in  the  neighbourhood.  During  the  latter 
half  of  1810,  several  minor  shocks  had  been  felt; 
but  on  the  31st  of  January  and  1st  of  February, 
1811,  the  convulsion  reached  the  highest  point, 
when  sulphureous  vapours  were  seen  to  rise  out  of 
the  sea,  about  two  miles  from  the  coast,  and  spread 
in  all  directions  ;  jets  of  flame  attended  the  rising 
of  these  vapours,  which  was  speedily  followed  by 
columns  of  volcanic  ashes,  and  other  erupted  mate- 
rials ;  in  about  eight  days  this  eruption  terminated, 
when  it  was  found  that  the  bottom  of  the  sea,  pre- 
viously from  300  to  500  feet  deep  in  this  spot, 
had  been  lifted  up  nearly  to  a  level  with  the  sur- 
face of  the  water.  About  four  months  after,  on 
the  13th  of  June,  1811,  another  eruption  took  place 
about  two  miles  and  a  half  from  the  scene  of  the 
former,  which  reached  its  greatest  violence  on  the 
17th  of  June,  columns  of  ashes  and  smoke  being 
whirled  up  many  hundred  feet  high  above  the  sea. 
At  the  close  of  the  eruption  an  island  became 
visible,  which  gradually  rose  to  a  height  of  three 
hundred  feet  above  the  sea.  Captain  Tillard,  of  the 
Sabrina,  visited  the  island,  which  he  found  rather 
too  hot  to  walk  on,  and  gave  it  the  name  of  his 
vessel.  It  presented  at  one  end  a  conical  hill,  and 
at  the  other  a  deep  crater,  which  sent  forth  jets  of 
flames,  though  it  was  under  water  at  full  tide.  The 

'  O 

continued  eruptions  of  hot  stones,  sand,  and  ashes, 
from  the  crater,  raised  the  conical  hill  at  the  one 
side  of  the  island  eventually  six  hundred  feet  above 


the  sea.  However,  in  the  last  days  of  February, 
1812,  the  entire  island  sank  into  the  sea,  and  dis- 
appeared without  leaving  a  vestige  behind. 

In  July,  1818,  violent  spoutings  and  jettings  of 
steam  and  water  were  observed  at  a  spot  some  thirty 
miles  to  the  south-west  of  Sicily,  where  the  sea  was 
known  to  be  600  feet  deep.  On  the  18th  of  the 
month  a  small  island  made  its  appearance,  with  a 
burning  crater  in  the  centre  of  it,  ejecting  ashes, 
cinders,  and  thick  volumes  of  smoke,  and  covering 
the  sea  around  with  floating  cinders,  and  shoals  of 
dead  fishes. 

The  new  island  rose  gradually  to  an  elevation  of 
nearly  200  feet  above  the  sea ;  it  measured  about 
three  miles  round  at  the  base.  The  crater,  in  its 
centre,  constituted  a  basin  600  feet  in  diameter, 
full  of  dingy  red  water,  boiling. 

After  having  continued  above  the  sea  for  nearly 
three  months,  the  island,  now  generally  known  in 
the  books  by  the  name  of  "  Graham  Island"  sank 
gradually  back  into  the  sea ;  towards  the  end  of 
October  it  was  again  nearly  on  a  level  with  the  sur- 
face of  the  water ;  it  disappeared  eventually  alto- 
gether, leaving  behind,  however,  a  most  dangerous 
reef  of  hard  volcanic  rock,  just  eleven  feet  under 
water,  encompassed  by  shoals,  consisting  of  cinders 
and  sand. 

Another  volcanic  island  rose  on  the  coast  of  Ice- 
land, during  the  tremendous  eruption  of  Skaptaar 
Jokul,  in  1783.  This  island  also,  which  was  called 
Nyb'e,  sank  afterwards  down  again  into  the  sea. 


Some  of  these  volcanic  islands  are  of  a  more  per- 
manent character  ;  as,  for  instance,  the  island  of  New 
Kaineni,  near  Santorin,  in  the  Grecian  Archipelago, 
which  was  raised  up  by  a  submarine  volcanic  erup- 
tion in  1707,  and  continues  to  the  present  day  above 

There  are  many  mountains  whose  summits  and 
depressions,  though  now  covered  with  herbage,  and, 
in  some  instances,  the  sites  of  villages  and  cities, 
bear  a  close  resemblance  to  the  cones  and  craters  of 
active  volcanoes  ;  and  whose  constituent  rocks  are 
decidedly  volcanic.  Geologists  apply  to  such  moun- 
tains the  term  " extinct  volcanoes"  which,  however, 
is  intended  to  signify  simply  that  no  eruption  has 
taken  place  from  them  for  ages  ;  but  by  no  means 
implies  that  they  will  never  be  active  again.  Mount 
Vesuvius,  which  at  some  geological  era  had  clearly 
been  an  active  volcano,  had  slumbered  for  ages  in  a 
state  of  apparent  extinction,  when  the  terrible 
eruption  that  buried  Herculaneum  and  Pompeii 
under  a  sea  of  volcanic  ashes,  revealed  once  more 
the  true  nature  of  the  mountain. 

In  certain  localities  are  found  vents  which  emit 
only  gaseous  exhalations  and  aqueous  vapour. 
Such  vents  or  solfataras,  as  they  are  usually  called, 
are  properly  looked  upon  in  the  light  of  half-extinct 
volcanoes,  which  may  at  any  time  suddenly  burst 
forth  again  with  all  the  terrific  violence  of  true  vol- 
canic eruptions. 

Extinct  volcanoes  are  found  not  only  in  volcanic 


regions,  but  also  in  places  presenting,  with  the  ex- 
ception of  hot  wells  and  mineral  springs,  no  traces 
of  volcanic  activity  within  historical  periods. 

Among  extinct  volcanoes  those  of  central  France 
have  attracted  most  attention.  In  the  districts  of 
Auvergne,  Velay,  and  the  Vivarais,  there  are  seen 
several  hundred  volcano-shaped  conical  hills,  with 
more  or  less  perfectly-formed  craters  on  their  tops. 
These  conical  hills  are  called  in  the  language  of  the 
country  " Puys"  which  means  mountain  peaks. 
They  are  all  of  them  dome-shaped,  varying  in 
height  from  500  feet  to  2800  feet  above  the  level 
of  the  plain  from  which  they  rise  in  an  irregular 
chain,  thirty  miles  in  length  and  two  miles  in 
breadth  ;  the  plain  itself,  some  forty-five  miles  long 
and  twenty  miles  wide,  is  1200  feet  above  the  level 
of  the  sea. 

All  the  cones  are  formed  of  volcanic  materials, 
such  as  lava,  sand,  and  cinders;  and  in  many  of  them 
are  found  well-defined  craters.  The  highest  of  these 
is  called  " Puy  de  Dome"  It  is  4000  feet  above 
the  level  of  the  sea ;  it  is  composed  entirely  of  vol- 
canic materials,  and  has  a  regular  crater,  measuring 
fifteen  hundred  feet  round,  and  three  hundred  feet 

On  the  top  of  another  of  these  remarkable  cones, 
called  the  "  Puy  de  Pariou,"  there  is  a  very  deep 
extinct  crater,  a  mile  round,  which  is  now  closed 
in,  and  covered  with  turf  and  grass.  From  the 
lower  part  of  this  conical  hill  a  stream  of  lava  has 


issued,  which  lies  there  now,  rugged  and  black, 
covering  the  plain  with  volcanic  cinders  to  the 
depth  of  about  twenty  feet. 

Similar  extinct  volcanoes  are  found  in  the  south 
of  Sicily,  the  neighbourhood  of  Naples,  Hungary, 
the  lower  provinces  of  the  Rhine,  and  the  north 
of  Spain. 

In  England,  Scotland,  and  Ireland,  although  no 
such  specimens  of  extinct  volcanoes,  in  the  form  of 
hills  with  cones  and  craters,  are  found,  yet  rocks  of 
volcanic  origin  abound ;  and  there  can  be  no  doubt 
but  that  the  remarkable  basaltic  rocks  of  Staffa  and 
the  Giant's  Causeway  are  the  productions  of  an 
extinct  volcano. 

The  absence  of  cones  and  craters,  and  of  streams 
of  cooled  lava  issuing  from  the  bases  of  the  basaltic 
hills  of  the  British  Isles,  is  owing  simply  to  the 
circumstance  that  the  eruptions  of  these  volcanoes, 
in  the  period  of  their  activity,  took  place  under  the 
bed  of  the  ocean. 

onterfttl  f  amp. 

' '  Know  the  great  genius  of  this  land 
Has  many  a  light  aerial  band, 
Who  all,  beneath  his  high  command, 

As  arts  or  arms  they  understand, 

Their  labours  ply." — BURNS. 

GENII,  afrits,  and  ghouls,  have  long  since  lost  their 
terrors,  but  the  wonderful  stories  told  about  them 
will  continue  to  charm  the  youthful  mind  for  cen- 
turies to  come.  Chief  among  these  stories  is  that 
of  Aladdin,  the  poor  boy,  who  became  the  fortu- 
nate possessor  of  a  wonderful  lamp,  which  gave  him 
control  over  a  powerful  race  of  genii.  By  merely 
rubbing  the  lamp  he  summoned  these  superhuman 
servants,  who  waited  on  him  hand  and  foot,  brought 
him  untold  wealth,  transported  him  from  place  to 
place,  and  fulfilled  his  wildest  desires.  Upon  this 
beautiful  Arabian  romance  we  ground  our  con- 
cluding fairy  tale  of  science. 

Our  wonderful  lamp  is  merely  a  poetical  image 
of  Science.  The  lamp  of  science  dispels  intellectual 
darkness,  and  floods  the  world  with  its  all-pene- 


trating  light.  The  night-prowling  ghouls,  Igno- 
rance and  Superstition,  dare  not  encounter  its 
glancing  rays,  and  descend  shrieking  into  the 
abyss,  while  Industry  toils  in  the  glare,  and  seems 
to  acquire  new  vigour  whenever  the  flame  increases 
in  brilliancy. 

The  attendant  genii  of  this  wonderful  lamp 
are  those  powers  of  the  material  world  which 
have  been  subjugated  by  man — the  Aladdin  of 
our  story. 

Among  these  genii  the  almost  omnipotent  agent 
Steam  ranks  first.  The  miracles  wrought  by  this 
slave  of  the  lamp  transcend  all  the  wonders  con- 
ceived by  the  Oriental  romancists.  "  By  its  agency," 
says  Dr.  Lardner,  "coal  is  made  to  minister  in  a 
variety  of  ways  to  the  uses  of  society.  By  it  coals 
are  taught  to  spin,  weave,  dye,  print,  and  dress 
silks,  cottons,  woollen  and  other  cloths ;  to  make 
paper,  and  print  books  on  it  when  made ;  to  con- 
vert corn  into  flour ;  to  press  oil  from  the  olive  and 
wine  from  the  grape ;  to  draw  up  metal  from  the 
bowels  of  the  earth  ;  to  pound  and  smelt  it,  to  melt 
and  mould  it,  to  forge  it,  to  roll  it,  and  to  fashion 
it  into  every  form  that  the  most  wayward  caprice 
can  desire.  Do  we  traverse  the  deep,  they  lend 
wings  to  the  ship,  and  bid  defiance  to  the  natural 
opponents,  the  winds  and  the  tides  !  Does  the  wind- 
bound  ship  desire  to  get  out  of  port  to  start  on  her 
voyage,  steam  throws  its  arms  around  her,  and 
places  her  on  the  open  sea !  Do  we  traverse  the 


land,  steam  is  harnessed  to  our  chariot,  and  we 
outstrip  the  flight  of  the  swiftest  bird,  and  equal 
the  fury  of  the  tempest  !" 

We  may  form  an  idea  of  the  versatile  powers  of 
steam  if  we  consider  the  manufacture  of  this 
volume.  It  was  printed  by  steam  upon  paper  made 
by  steam.  The  rags  of  which  the  sheets  were 
formed  were  woven  by  steam,  their  separate  threads 
having  been  previously  spun  by  steam.  Moreover, 
by  steam  the  types  were  cast  in  metal,  that  the 
same  agent  had  raised  from  the  mine ;  by  steam, 
too,  the  mill-board  and  cloth  which  form  the  cover 
were  fabricated,  and  the  thread  which  fastens  the 
sheets  together  was  twisted. 

The  author  we  have  quoted  above  gives  the  fol- 
lowing excellent  illustrations  of  the  power  of 
steam  : — A  train  of  coaches  weighing  about  80 
tons,  and  transporting  240  passengers  with  their 
luggage,  has  been  taken  from  Liverpool  to  Birming- 
ham, and  back  from  Birmingham  to  Liverpool ;  the 
trip  each  way  taking  about  four  hours  and  a 
quarter,  stoppages  included.  The  distance  between 
these  places  by  railway  is  95  miles.  The  double 
journey  of  190  miles  was  effected  by  the  mechanical 
force  produced  in  the  combustion  of  four  tons  of 
coke,  the  value  of  which  is  about  five  pounds.  To 
carry  the  same  number  of  passengers  daily  between 
the  same  places,  by  stage-coaches  on  a  common 
road,  would  require  twenty  coaches  and  an  esta- 
blishment of  3800  horses,  with  which  the  journey  in 


each  direction  would  be  performed  in  about  twelve 
hours,  stoppages  included. 

The  circumference  of  the  earth  measures  25,000 
miles  ;  if  it  were  begirt  with  an  iron  railway,  such 
a  train  as  above  described,  carrying  240  passengers, 
would  be  drawn  round  it  by  the  combustion  of 
about  thirty  tons  of  coke,  and  the  circuit  would  be 
accomplished  in  five  weeks. 

In  the  drainage  of  the  Cornish  mines,  a  bushel  of 
coals  usually  raises  40,000  tons  of  water  afoot  high  ; 
but  it  has,  on  some  occasions,  raised  60,000  tons  of 
water  the  same  height.  Let  iis  take  its  labour  at 
50,000  tons  raised  one  foot  high.  A  horse  worked  in 
a  fast  stage-coach  pulls  against  an  average  resistance 
of  about  a  quarter  of  a  hundred  weight.  Against 
this  he  is  able  to  work  at  the  usual  speed  through 
about  eight  miles  daily  ;  his  work  is  therefore  equi- 
valent to  1000  tons  raised  one  foot.  A  bushel  of 
coals,  consequently,  as  used  in  Cornwall,  perfonns 
as  much  labour  as  a  day's  work  of  fifty  such  horses. 

The  Great  Pyramid  of  Egypt  stands  upon  a  base 
measuring  700  feet  each  way,  and  is  500  feet  high, 
its  weight  being  12,760  millions  of  pounds.  Hero- 
dotus states  that  in  constructing  it  100,000  men 
were  constantly  employed  twenty  years.  The  mate- 
rials of  this  Pyramid  would  be  raised  from  the 
ground  to  their  present  position  by  the  combustion 
of  about  480  tons  of  coal. 

The  Menai  Bridge  consists  of  about  2000  tons  of 
iron,  and  its  height  above  the  level  of  the  water 


is  120  feet.  Its  mass  might  be  lifted  from  the  level 
of  the  water  to  its  present  position  by  the  com- 
bustion of  four  bushels  of  coal.*  The  reader  will 
hardly  require  to  be  informed  that  the  above  illus- 
trations show  what  might  be  done  by  the  steam 
generated  during  the  combustion  of  certain  quan- 
tities of  coal,  provided  its  entire  strength  could  be 
applied  to  the  fulfilment  of  the  required  results. 

Let  us  now  briefly  consider  some  of  the  real 
achievements  of  Steam,  and  other  genii,  over  which 
man,  as  the  holder  of  the  lamp  of  science,  has  abso- 
lute control. 

The  Great  Eastern,  or  Leviathan,  that  stupendous 
product  of  engineering  daring,  is  a  structure  immea- 
surably more  wonderful  than  Aladdin's  palace.  While 
this  ship  was  in  course  of  construction,  the  genii  of  the 
lamp  had  no  rest,  and  their  Cyclopean  labours  excited 
the  wonder  of  all  beholders.  Although  building  in  the 
midst  of  the  largest  collection  of  seafaring  people  in 
the  world,  the  Leviathan  was  a  puzzle  to  them  all. 

None  of  the  old-accustomed  sights  and  sounds  of 
ship-building  attended  the  growth  of  this  monster  of 
the  deep.  The  visitor  to  the  works  of  Scott  Russell 
and  Co.,  at  Millwall,  looked  in  vain  for  the  merry 
ship-carpenters,  caulking  away  with  monotonous 
dead-sounding  blows ;  for  the  artisans  chipping  with 
their  adzes,  rearing  up  huge  ribs,  or  laying  the  mas- 
sive keel;  and  for  the  bright  augers  gleaming  in 
the  sun  as  sturdy  arms  worked  out  the  bolt-holes. 
*  Lardner,  on  the  Steam  Engine. 


What  he  did  see  might  well  excite  his  sm-prise. 
He  saw  the  giant  arm  of  Steam  welding  huge  shafts, 
and  punching  inch-plates  of  iron  as  quickly  and  as 
noiselessly  as  a  lady  punches  cardboard  for  a  fancy- 
fair  ornament.  Steel,  urged  by  the  same  potent 
genie,  was  seen  showing  its  mastery  over  iron ; 
while  the  huge  lathes  revolved,  and  the  planing- 
machine  steadily  pursued  its  resistless  course ;  whilst, 
in  place  of  the  shavings  of  the  carpenter,  long  ring- 
lets of  a  dull  grey  metal  cumbered  the  ground.  The 
ship-carpenter  was  transmuted  into  a  brawny  smith, 
and  the  civil  engineer  had  taken  the  place  of  the 
marine  architect. 

The  Leviathan  is  essentially  an  iron  ship,  more 
completely  so  perhaps  than  any  vessel  hitherto  built. 
Iron  plates,  angle  irons,  and  iron  rivets  form  the 
sinews,  muscles,  and  bones  of  this  monster  of  the 
age  of  iron.  The  plates  vary  in  thickness  from  half 
an  inch  to  an  inch;  the  rivets  are  about  an  inch  in 
diameter,  and  it  is  these  that  hold  the  vast  fabric 

In  fastening  the  plates,  the  mighty  genie  Heat  lent 
his  aid.  When  the  holes  in  the  plates  to  be  held 
together  had  been  brought  into  exact  opposition,  bolts 
at  a  white  heat  were  one  by  one  introduced,  and 
firmly  riveted  whilst  in  that  condition  by  three 
men,  one  holding  the  bolt  in  its  position  by  placing 
a  hammer  against  its  head  on  the  inside  of  the  ship, 
whilst  the  other  two  with  alternate  blows  produced 
the  rivet-head  on  the  outside.  The  rivets  contracted 


in  cooling,  and  drew  the  plates  together  with  the 
force  of  a  vice.  Before  the  ship  could  swim,  no  less 
than  two  millions  of  these  bolts  had  to  be  made 

We  will  not  attempt  to  give  a  minute  description 
of  this  steam-made  vessel,  but  will  confine  our 
observations  to  those  points  in  which  the  Leviathan 
differs  from  other  ships. 

Let  us  first  consider  the  form  of  the  great  ship. 
Viewed  end-wise,  its  outline  is  nearly  square,  for 
the  bottom  is  perfectly  flat  throughout  a  breadth  of 
forty  feet,  without  a  keel  or  any  other  protuberance. 
Its  broadside  is  almost  a  perfect  quadrangle,  quite 
horizontal  at  the  top,  and  very  nearly  vertical  at 
the  two  ends.  But  although  the  general  outline  of 
the  Leviatlian  is  formed  of  nearly  straight  lines,  this 
ship  has  curves  of  wondrous  delicacy — curves  that 
bring  the  bow  to  the  sharpness  of  a  wedge,  by  gra- 
dations which  the  eye  can  scarcely  follow,  while  the 
stern  below  the  low- water  line  has  convexities  and 
hollows  gradually  melting  into  each  other. 

The  Leviathan  is  constructed  on  the  wave-line 
principle;  that  is  to  say,  there  is  a  certain  similarity 
between  the  curves  of  the  hull  and  the  curves  of 
a  wave.  The  best  form  of  a  ship,  which  should 
force  its  way  through  the  water  so  as  to  meet  with 
the  least  resistance  from  the  fluid,  was  until  recently 
unknown.  The  head  and  breast  of  a  fish,  and  the 
breast  of  a  duck  or  swan,  were  the  favourite  models 
for  the  ship's  bow.  These  forms  were  some-vhat 


modified  by  experience,  but  they  still  remained  the 

Some  five-and-twenty  years  ago,  Mr.  Scott 
Russell,  then  an  unknown  ship-builder,  ventured 
to  question  the  fitness  of  these  two  forms.  The 
fish  form  would  be  the  best  and  most  perfect,  un- 
doubtedly, provided  the  ship  swam  under  water 
like  a  fish,  instead  of  half  in  and  half  out ;  and  the 
duck's-breast  bow  might  prove  faultless,  if  a  vessel 
were  merely  required  to  float  along  the  surface  like 
a  duck,  and  not  to  swim  with  speed.  But  he  saw 
that  the  best  constructed  ships  heaped  up  a  mass  of 
water  before  them,  and  that  the  resistance  of  this 
anterior  wave  could  not  be  overcome  without  an 
unprofitable  expenditure  of  power. 

Every  vessel  in  passing  over  the  sea  displaces  a 
certain  amount  of  water,  proportional  to  its  size 
and  draught,  and  then  the  water  closes  in  behind 
her  to  fill  up  the  hollow.  Scott  Russell  at  length 
discovered  the  form  of  ship  that  would  offer  the 
least  resistance  to  the  water.  He  found  that  the 
lines  or  curvature  of  the  bow  of  a  ship  ought  to  re- 
semble the  curvature  of  the  wave  of  displaced  water, 
and  that  the  stern  should  be  curved  like  the  wave 
of  replacement.  The  mark  that  still-water  makes 
on  the  hull  of  a  ship  floating  on  it  is  called  the 
water-line.  Scott  Russell  called  his  curve  the  wave- 
line,  because  he  found  it  precisely  the  same  as  the 
line  which  the  wave  of  displaced  water  marked 
along  the  side  of  the  ship,  by  which  it  harmlessly 
glided  without  impeding  its  motion.  To  test  the 


merits  of  the  wave-line  principle,  one  hundred  and 
fifty  models  were  constructed,  and  no  less  than 
20,000  experiments  were  made,  which  all  tended 
towards  one  result — the  desirability  of  assimilating 
the  form  of  a  ship  in  certain  parts  to  the  shape  of 

The  great  point  in  practical  navigation  is  to 
obtain  a  passage  for  a  ship  by  removing  or  dis- 
placing the  particles  of  water  as  quietly  as  possible, 
and  to  no  further  distance  on  either  side  than  the 
greatest  width  of  the  vessel. 

On  one  occasion  Scott  Russell  caused  a  model 
boat,  75  feet  long,  to  be  drawn  along  a  canal  at  a 
very  high  speed,  and  made  the  prow  pass  between 
two  oranges  floating  on  the  water.  These  oranges, 
which  represented  on  a  large  and  visible  scale  two 
particles  of  water,  were  observed  merely  to  touch 
the  sides  of  the  vessel  until  they  got  amidships, 
where  they  remained  quiescent  until  they  closed  in 
behind  the  stern. 

The  first  boat  constructed  on  the  new  principle 
was  called  the  Wave.  This  little  yacht,  some  seventy 
feet  long,  and  seven  and  a-half  tons  burden,  verified 
all  the  inventor's  predictions,  and  may  be  said  to 
have  heralded  in  a  new  era  of  ship-building.  The 
Leviathan,  as  far  as  its  lines  are  concerned,  is  but  a 
magnified  copy  of  the  little  Wave  boat ;  and  there 
is  little  doubt  that  it  will  eclipse  all  other  vessels  in 
speed,  as  well  as  in  vastness,  whenever  it  has  a 
chance  of  displaying  its  powers. 

We  have  dwelt  upon  the  wave-line  principle,  as 


man  is  solely  indebted  to  the  wonderful  lamp  for  its 
discovery.  The  form  of  least  resistance  could  never 
have  been  discovered  by  accident.  The  old  ship- 
builders jumped  at  the  conclusion  that  the  fish's 
head  and  the  duck's  breast  were  the  only  perfect 
types  of  a  vessel's  bow;  but  the  magical  wave-line 
could  not  be  introduced  into  naval  architecture 
until  science  had  revealed  the  true  laws  of  fluid 
motion  and  resistance. 

We  have  said  that  the  hull  of  the  Leviathan  is 
formed  of  unyielding  plates  of  inch  iron ;  also  that 
this  gigantic  hull  has  innumerable  curves,  which 
die  away  into  each  other  by  insensible  gradations. 
At  the  first  glance  these  two  statements  appear 
irreconcilable.  How  can  these  delicate  curves  be 
produced  by  any  aggregation  of  rectilinear  pieces  of 
flat  boiler-plate  1  In  ordinary  wooden  ships  the 
planking  by  its  elasticity  allows  itself  to  be  modelled 
to  the  ribs ;  but  here  there  are  no  ribs,  in  the  true 
sense  of  the  word,  and  the  form  of  the  vessel  must 
depend  upon  the  inclination  given  to  each  separate 
piece  of  iron  before  the  fastening  process  is  com- 
menced. And  such  in  fact  is  the  case.  Every 
individual  plate,  before  being  fixed  in  its  proper 
position,  was  the  subject  of  a  separate  study  to  the 
engineer.  Of  the  thirty  thousand  plates  that  com- 
pose the  hulk  of  this  great  ship,  only  a  few  situated 
in  the  midship  section  are  alike  either  in  size  or 
curve.  For  each  a  model  in  wood,  or  "  template," 
as  it  is  technically  called,  had  originally  to  be  made, 


and  by  these  patterns  the  plates  were  cut  into  their 
required  shape  by  the  huge  steam-shears,  in  exactly 
the  same  manner  as  a  tailor  cuts  out  various  por- 
tions of  a  garment.  The  "  list,"  or  inclination  given 
to  each  plate,  was  the  next  process;  and  this  was 
produced  by  passing  the  plate  through  a  system  of 
rollers,  which  could  be  so  reversed  in  their  action, 
and  so  adjusted,  as  to  give  any  required  curve. 

The  Leviathan  was  not  built  in  the  usual  manner  ; 
there  was  no  skeleton  to  indicate  what  it  was  about 
to  become.  The  reason  of  this  was,  that  on  account  of 
the  enormous  length  of  the  ship,  it  was  necessary  to 
make  use  of  a  different  mode  of  construction  to 
that  generally  pursued  in  building  ships,  and  for 
this  purpose  the  tubular  principle,  so  successfully 
carried  out  by  Robert  Stephen  son  in  the  Menai 
Bridge,  was  adopted. 

The  framework  of  the  ship  may  be  described  as 
consisting,  primarily,  of  thirty-five  horizontal  webs 
or  ribs  of  iron  plate,  each  nearly  three  feet  wide, 
and  immensely  strengthened  at  all  the  points  of 
junction.  They  extend  from  end  to  end  of  the 
vessel  side  by  side  at  the  bottom,  and  one  over  the 
other  at  the  sides,  at  distances  varying  from  three 
to  five  feet  apart.  On  either  side  the  uppermost 
web  is  about  five  feet  above  low-water  mark.  These 
webs  are  crossed  by  huge  partitions  of  a  similar 
construction  placed  just  sixty  feet  apart.  Plates  of 
the  best  and  toughest  iron  are  riveted  on  each  side 
'of  the  thirty-five  longitudinal  webs  or  ribs,  so  as  to 


form  a  double  skin  to  the  ship,  or  a  dermis  and  epi- 
dermis ;  the  Leviathan  is  therefore  two  ships,  one 
within  the  other.  The  whole  framework  forms  a 
system  of  cells,  which,  like  the  Menai  tube,  com- 
bines extreme  lightness  with  great  strength. 

So  thoroughly  close  are  the  joints  of  this  frame- 
work— we  quote,  with  some  modification,  the  words 
of  a  competent  authority — that  any  one  cell  would 
hold  water  without  its  running  into  the  adjoining 
cells ;  and  water  is  actually  to  be  admitted  to  some 
of  them,  to  assist  in  ballasting  or  in  "trimming" 
ship,  or  in  giving  it  a  "lift"  or  tilt- up  when  the 
bottom  needs  repair,  taps  and  valves  being  arranged 
for  that  purpose.  Above  the  level  already  named, 
five  feet  higher  than  low- water  mark,  the  hull  is 
formed  of  bars  and  plates  as  below ;  biit  it  is  not 
cellular,  being  only  one  layer  in  thickness.  The 
various  decks,  whole  and  partial,  are  mostly  formed 
of  iron.  The  upper  deck  is  so  strong  that  it  is  cal- 
culated that  the  whole  weight  of  the  vessel  might 
be  suspended  from  it  ;  like  the  lower  part  of  the 
hull  it  has  a  cellular  structure,  and  will  help  to 
maintain  the  bulging  sides  in  their  places,  at  the 
same  time  that  it  supports  the  visible  wooden  deck. 

At  the  bow,  or  head  of  the  vessel,  the  decks  and 
partitions,  the  walls  and  casings,  the  supports  and 
ansle-irons  are  so  numerous  that  the  whole  forms  a 


mass  nearly  as  strong  as  solid  iron.  To  strengthen 
the  interior  of  the  mighty  ship,  to  define  its  shape, 
and  to  separate  it  into  water-tight  compartments, 


the  ten  bulkheads  or  cross-walls  of  thick  iron  plate, 
already  alluded  to,  extend  from  side  to  side,  and 
from  bottom  to  top,  with  no  openings  whatever 
below  the  level  of  the  passenger  saloons.  So  im- 
permeable are  these  walls  that  according  to  the 
view  of  the  builders  any  one  of  the  twelve  com- 
partments into  which  the  ship  is  thus  divided  might 
be  filled  with  water  without  flooding  those  adjacent 
to  it ;  and,  accordingly,  a  hole  rent  in  the  hull 
would,  so  to  speak,  only  have  one-tenth  part  of  a 
chance  in  sinking  the  vessel.  Besides  these  trans- 
verse walls,  there  are  two  longitudinal  iron  walls 
running  along  rather  more  than  half  the  length  of 
the  vessel ;  it  will  thus  be  seen  that  the  hollow  as 
well  as  the  shell  of  the  vast  fabric  is  cellular. 

What  with  the  two  iron  decks,  the  two  longitu- 
dinal iron  walls,  and  the  ten  transverse  iron  walls, 
besides  partial  decks,  and  walls  of  smaller  size,  the 
interior  is  made  into  a  series  of  sixty  or  eighty  vast 
iron  boxes,  a  honeycomb  of  quadranglar  cells,  the 
walls  of  which  give  strength  mutually  one  to 
another.  Let  a  strain  come  in  whatever  direction 
it  may,  there  is  an  iron  wall  ready  to  baffle  it.  The 
engineers  may  possibly  be  too  sanguine,  but  they 
believe  the  Leviathan  will  prove  the  taughtest,  trim- 
mest, driest  ship  ever  built,  irrespective  of  its  more 
important  qualities.  They  comfort  those  who  dread 
sea-sickness  with  the  hope  that  a  ship  too  long  to 
pitch  and  too  flat  to  roll,  will  be  bearable  even  to 
"  the  gentlemen  of  England  who  live  at  home  at 


ease  ;"  and  they  talk  of  the  ship  being  buoyant  even 
if  chopped  into  ten  ships — like  those  animals  which 
seem  to  have  ten  lives  instead  of  one.* 

It  is  not  easy  to  form,  an  adequate  idea  of  the 
dimensions  of  this  iron  monster.  When  we  recollect 
that  the  Great  Western,  which  twenty  years  ago  was 
regai'ded  as  a  marvel  of  vastness,  is  236  feet  long  ; 
the  Great  Britain,  the  first  ocean  screw  steamer,  is 
322  feet  long  ;  and  that  the  majestic  Himalaya  is 
370  feet  long — we  may  get,  by  comparison,  a  rough 
notion  of  the  magnitude  of  the  Leviathan,  which  is 
680  feet  long  between  the  perpendiculars,  and  691 
feet  on  the  upper  deck.  The  breadth  of  the  hull 
is  83  feet,  the  extreme  breadth  across  the  paddle- 
boxes  118  feet,  and  the  depth  from  deck  to  keel  58 
feet.  In  the  construction  of  the  hull  30,000  iron 
plates  were  used,  and  these  plates  were  fastened 
with  2,000,000  rivets.  The  weight  of  iron  in  the 
hull  amounts  to  8000  tons,  and  the  weight  of  the 
entire  vessel  when  voyaging  with  its  passengers, 
crew,  coals,  and  cargo  on  board,  will  be  from  25,000 
to  30,000  tons. 

Many  ingenious  comparisons  have  been  made  to 
enable  the  mind  to  form  a  true  conception  of  the 
value  of  the  above  figures.  The  London  streets 
and  squares  have  frequently  been  selected  as  fami- 
liar illustrations  of  the  Leviathan's  dimensions. 
Thus  it  has  been  said  that  if  any  gigantic  power 
could  transport  the  monster  to  Pall  Mall,  or  Oxford- 
*  Year-Book  for  1858. 


street,  or  St.  James's-street,  the  hull  would  not 
sink  to  the  roadway,  as  its  sides  would  rest  on  the 
opposite  parapets.  Even  Regent-street  would  not 
receive  it  without  the  paddle-boxes;  and  with  those 
appendages,  the  broadest  street  in  London,  Portland- 
place,  would  barely  afford  it  room.  The  paddle- 
wheels  alone  are  higher  than  any  but  the  highest 
houses.  If  stretched  over  Russell-square,  one  end 
would  rest  on  the  house-tops  of  the  north  side,  and 
the  other  on  those  of  the  south. 

Everything  relating  to  the  Leviathan  has  a  mag- 
nitude proportional  to  that  of  the  vast  hull;  thus 
Alexis  Soyer,  the  celebrated  chef  de  cuisine,  made  a 
calculation  that  one  hundred  persons  could  dine  in 
one  of  its  funnels,  and  actually  proposed  that  a 
banquet  should  be  spread  for  five  hundred  guests 
in  the  five  chimneys  before  they  were  fitted  to  the 

Let  us  now  briefly  consider  the  arrangements 
that  have  been  made  to  give  the  iron  monster  life 
and  motion.  Mr.  Brunei  decided  not  to  trust  so 
precious  a  human  freight,  and  so  vast  an  amount  of 
cargo  as  his  big  ship  is  designed  to  carry  to  any 
single  propelling  power,  but  resolved  to  supply  it 
with  three — the  screw,  the  paddle,  and  the  sail. 

The  paddle-wheels,  which  are  considerably  larger 
than  the  circus  at  Astley's,  are  to  be  propelled  by 
monster  engines,  the  motive-power  of  which  will 
be  generated  by  four  boilers  each  weighing  about 
fifty  tons,  and  containing  forty  tons  of  water. 


These  engines,  the  largest  ever  constructed  with 
oscillating  cylinders,  are  nevertheless  inferior  to 
those  devoted  to  the  screw-propeller. 

This  screw  is  twenty-four  feet  in  diameter,  and 
weighs  thirty-six  tons.  Its  four  fans,  which  were 
cast  separately,  and  afterwards  fitted  into  a  large 
cast-iron  boss,  have  been  aptly  compared  to  the 
blade-bones  of  some  huge  animal  of  the  pre-Adamite 
world.  Besides  being  pulled  along  by  the  paddles, 
and  pushed  along  by  the  screw,  the  Leviathan  will 
also  be  propelled  by  the  wind  when  exceptional  cir- 
cumstances render  such  aid  desirable.  There  are 
six  masts,  five  of  iron  and  one  of  wood,  and  on 
these  masts  will,  or  may  be,  spread  about  6500 
square  yards  of  canvass.  Under  ordinary  circum- 
stances the  Leviathan  will  go  faster  than  the  wind, 
and  sails  will  prove  an  impediment  rather  than  an 
assistance  to  the  ship's  progress.  It  is  not  probable, 
therefore,  that  they  will  be  much  resorted  to  except 
for  the  purpose  of  steadying  or  of  helping  to  steer 
the  huge  vessel.  The  steam-power  will  be  truly 
enormous;  it  has  been  stated  that,  were  everything 
put  to  work  at  its  fullest,  the  whole  series  of  engines 
would  work  up  to  11,500  horse-power.  This  power 
would  suffice  to  raise  200,000  gallons  of  water  to 
the  top  of  the  Monument  in  less  than  a  minute,  or 
to  work  all  the  cotton  mills  of  Manchester. 

When  all  the  engines  are  in  full  work,  the  great 
source  of  power,  coal,  will  be  needed  to  the  extent 
of  250  tons  each  day.  For  a  voyage  to  Australia 


and  back,  12,000  tons  at  the  very  least  will  be  re- 
quired, yet  such  is  the  capacity  of  the  Leviathan  for 
fuel,  that  this  immense  quantity  can  be  stowed  away 
in  the  coal-bunkers  without  encroaching  at  all  on 
the  space  set  apart  for  machinery,  cargo,  passengers, 
and  crew. 

The  great  ship  will  carry  twenty  little  ships,  all 
fitted  with  masts  and  sails  complete.  In  addition 
to  these,  two  small  screw-steamers  will  hang  astern 
abaft  the  paddle-boxes,  each  of  which  will  be  100 
feet  long,  16  feet  beam,  120  tons  burthen,  and 
40-horse  power.  These  will  be  raised  and  lowered 
by  auxiliary  steam-engines,  and  will  be  used  for 
landing  and  embarking  passengers,  with  their  lug- 
gage. They  will  look  like  toy-steamers  when  sus- 
pended at  the  sides  of  the  sea  monster,  though  they 
will  be  considerably  larger  than  most  of  the  above- 
bridge  Thames  steamers. 

The  passenger-arrangements  are  on  a  correspond- 
ing scale  with  everything  else.  There  are  ample 
means  for  accommodating  4000  guests  in  this  float- 
ing city,  besides  the  crew  of  400.  The  iron  parti- 
tions we  have  already  described  divide  the  interior 
capacity  of  the  hull  into  separate  compartments  or 
boxes ;  and  into  each  box  we  may  suppose  a  large 
house  to  be  let  down.  A  clever  writer  has  thus 
filled  up  in  imagination  five  of  these  great  boxes  :— 
"  If  we  were  to  take  the  row  of  houses  belonging  to 
Mivart's,  and  drop  them  down  one  gulf;  take 
Farrance's,  and  drop  it  down  a  second ;  take  Mor- 


ley's,  at  Charing  Cross,  and  fit  it  into  a  third ;  and 
adjust  the  Great  Western  Hotel,  at  Paddington, 
and  the  Great  Northern,  at  King's  Cross,  into 
apertures  four  and  five,  we  should  get  some  faint 
idea  of  the  nature  of  the  accommodation  in  the 
Great  Eastern." 

We  have  only  adverted  to  a  few  of  the  wonders 
of  this  leviathan — this  floating  palace  of  Aladdin, 
which  owes  its  existence  to  the  potent  genii  of  the 
lamp  of  science.  Although  this  crowning  marvel 
of  our  wondrous  age  still  rests  in  the  Thames  like 
a  giant  spell-bound,  we  cannot  doubt  that  it  has  a 
mighty  future  before  it.  All  who  watched  the 
Leviathan's  growth,  and  followed  its  progress  along 
the  launching  ways,  must  long  to  see  it  "  walk  the 
waters  like  a  thing  of  life,"  and  show  its  mastery 
over  those  waves  which  it  so  closely  resembles  in 
its  graceful  curves.  In  justice  to  the  wise  men 
Brunei  and  Russell,  who  have  wrought  such  mira- 
cles in  the  subjugation  of  the  powers  of  nature,  the 
genii  of  our  wonderful  lamp,  we  trust  that  the 
merits  of  their  daring  achievement  in  ship-building 
will  soon  be  tested. 

Let  us  now  glance  at  another  marvellous  product 
of  science,  which  rivals  all  the  magical  fabrics 
described  in  the  Arabian  Nights.  We  refer  to  the 
Britannia  Bridge  across  the  Menai  Straits. 

The  deep  chasm  which  separates  the  Isle  of 
Anglesey  from  the  mainland  had  long  been  a 
serious  obstacle  to  the  modern  Aladdin,  who  could 
not  brook  the  delay  which  attended  the  use  of 


ferry-boats.  He  could  not  rest  satisfied  until  he 
had  bridged-over  the  intervening  strip  of  sea ;  and 
he  therefore  summoned  the  potent  genii  of  the 
lamp,  who  helped  him  to  form  a  magical  roadway 
in  mid-air.  This  cobweb-like  structure  is  known  as 
the  Suspension  Bridge  of  Telford.  In  course  of 
time,  however,  Aladdin  began  to  wish  for  a  more 
substantial  fabric,  across  which  he  might  urge  his 
steam-drawn  chariot.  To  obtain  such  a  bridge  as 
he  desired,  he  sought  the  aid  of  a  potent  magician, 
who  had  long  been  famed  for  his  power  over  the 
genii  of  the  lamp. 

In  plain  langiiage,  a  railway  bridge  across  the 
Menai  Straits  was  required,  and  its  construction 
was  left  to  Mr.  Robert  Stephenson. 

The  seven  labours  of  Hercules  were  insignificant 
tasks  compared  with  that  which  the  railway  au- 
thorities set  before  the  great  engineer,  perfectly 
satisfied  that  he  would  accomplish  it  by  some  means 
or  other.  Yet  the  difficulties  which  Stephenson 
had  to  contend  with  seemed  insurmountable,  and  a 
less  daring  genius  would  have  shrunk  from  en- 
countering them. 

Those  captive  princesses  of  fairy  lore  who  were 
doomed  to  draw  water  from  a  well  without  a  bucket, 
to  catch  fish  without  a  net,  and  to  spin  a  thread 
without  either  wheel  or  distaff,  were  not  more  un- 
fortunately situated  than  was  Robert  Stephenson, 
though  he  has  never  yet  been  made  the  hero  of  a 
romantic  story. 

"  You  must  build  a  bridge,"  said  his  employers, 


"  that  the  heaviest  trains  may  pass  over  in  safety  at 
any  speed.  This  bridge  may  have  any  form  you 
please;  but  we  wish  you  to  remember  that  its 
rupture  would  be  attended  with  most  disastrous 
consequences,  and  we  therefore  urge  upon  you  the 
necessity  of  making  it  strong  enough  to  resist  every 

"  If  you  build  a  railway  bridge  across  the  Straits," 
said  the  Lords  of  the  Admiralty,  "  you  must  not 
interfere  with  the  navigation.  Your  viaduct  must 
be  at  least  one  hundred  feet  above  the  level  of  the 
water,  so  that  ships  may  pass  beneath,  and  it  must 
be  constructed  without  the  aid  of  scaffolding." 

Even  the  elements  seemed  to  set  their  face  against 
the  proposed  bridge.  The  Straits  are  above  twelve 
miles  in  length,  the  shores  throughout  being  rocky 
and  precipitous.  The  water  that  fills  the  passage  is 
never  at  rest,  and  the  fall  of  the  tide  is  from  twenty 
to  twenty-five  feet.  Moreover,  the  wind  blows 
through  the  Straits  with  such  violence,  that  a  bridge 
must  be  strong  indeed  to  withstand  its  rude  shocks. 

Imagine  an  enchanted  engineer  with  such  a  task 
before  him  as  the  construction  of  a  bridge  a  hundred 
feet  above  the  tumultuous  waters,  without  scaffold- 
ing of  any  kind,  and  you  will  be  able  to  get  a  faint 
idea  of  the  difficulties  which  he  had  to  overcome 
before  a  railway  train  could  pass  from  Carnarvon  to 

We  will  not  allude  to  the  various  plans  which 
Stephenson  conceived  and  discarded  before  the  idea 


of  a  tubular  bridge  took  possession  of  his  mind. 
This  last  project,  destined  to  prove  so  successful,  has 
been  well  compared  to  a  beam  along  which  a  man 
scrambles  when  escaping  from  a  fire.  Stephenson 
was  bent  upon  crossing  the  Straits  ;  but  as  he  could 
not  build  an  ordinary  bridge,  when  under  such  ex- 
traordinary restrictions,  he  resolved  to  span  the 
waters  with  a  huge  makeshift  in  the  shape  of  a 
hollow  beam  of  iron.  Each  tube  of  the  Britannia 
Bridge  is  literally  a  beam,  so  constructed  that  it 
combines  the  maximum  of  strength  with  the  mini- 
mum of  weight ;  in  other  words,  it  is  a  beam  from 
which  every  portion  of  metal  that  does  not  add  to 
its  strength  has  been  carefully  removed. 

We  will  now  endeavour  to  explain  the  simple 
principle  upon  which  a  beam,  whether  of  wood  or 
iron,  is  enabled  to  support  the  weight  imposed 
upon  it. 

For  want  of  a  few  moments'  reflection  most 
people,  in  looking  up  at  a  common  ceiling-girder, 
consider  that  its  upper  and  lower  parts  suffer 
equally  in  bearing  the  weight  of  the  roof;  but 
these  upper  and  lower  strata  suffer  from  causes  as 
diametrically  opposite  to  each  other  as  the  climates 
of  the  pole  and  of  the  equator.  The  top  of  the 
beam  throughout  its  whole  length  suffers  from 
severe  compression,  the  bottom  from  severe  exten- 
sion, and  thus,  while  the  particles  of  the  one  are 
violently  jammed  together,  the  particles  of  the  other 
are  on  the  point  of  separation ;  in  short,  the  differ- 


ence  between  the  two  is  precisely  that  which  exists 
between  the  opposite  punishments  of  vertically 
crushing  a  man  to  death  under  a  heavy  weight, 
and  of  horizontally  tearing  him  to  pieces  by  horses. 

This  theory,  confused  as  it  may  appear  in  words, 
can  at  once  be  simply  and  most  beautifully  illus- 
trated by  any  small  straight  stick  freshly  cut  from 
a  living  shrub. 

In  its  natural  form  the  bark  or  rind  around  the 
stick  is  equally  smooth  throughout ;  but  if  the  little 
bough,  held  firmly  in  each  hand,  be  bent  downwards 
so  as  to  form  a  bow,  or  in  other  words  to  represent 
a  beam  under  heavy  pressure,  two  opposite  results 
will  instantly  appear.  The  rind  in  the  centre  of 
the  upper  part  of  this  stick  will  be  crumpled  up, 
while  that  on  the  opposite  side  will  be  severely  dis- 
tended ;  thus  denoting,  or  rather  demonstrating, 
what  we  have  stated — namely,  that  beneath  the  rind 
the  wood  of  the  upper  part  of  the  stick  is  severely 
compressed,  while  that  underneath  is  as  violently 
stretched  :  indeed,  if  we  continue  to  bend  the  bow 
until  it  breaks,  the  splinters  of  the  upper  fracture 
will  be  seen  to  intei'lace  or  cross  each  other,  while 
those  beneath  will  be  divorced  by  a  chasm. 

But  it  is  evident,  on  reflection,  that  these  oppo- 
site results  of  compression  and  extension  must,  as 
they  approach  each  other,  respectively  diminish  in 
degree,  xintil  in  the  middle  of  the  beam,  termed  by 
mathematicians  its  neutral  axis,  the  two  antagonist 
forces,  like  the  celebrated  Kilkenny  cats,  destroy 


each  other.  It  therefore  appears  that  the  main 
strength  of  a  beam  consists  in  its  power  to  resist 
compression  and  extension,  and  that  the  middle  is 
comparatively  useless,  so  that  to  obtain  the  greatest 
amount  of  strength,  the  given  quantity  of  material 
to  be  used  should  be  accumulated  at  the  top  and 
bottom,  where  the  strain  is  greatest ;  or,  in  plain 
terms,  the  middle  of  the  beam,  whether  of  wood  or 
iron,  should  be  bored  out.  All  iron  girders,  all 
beams  in  houses — in  fact  all  things  in  domestic  or 
naval  architecture  that  bear  weight — are  subject  to 
the  same  law. 

A  hollow  beam  of  iron  having  been  fixed  upon  as 
the  form  which  the  projected  bridge  should  take,  an 
extensive  series  of  experiments  were  undertaken  with 
a  view  to  ascertain  the  shape  capable  of  sustaining 
the  greatest  weight.  A  rectangular  tube,  with  a 
height  considerably  greater  than  its  breadth,  and 
strengthened  at  the  top  and  bottom,  was  eventually 
selected.  The  genii  of  the  lamp  were  now  set  to 
work,  and  the  quiet  folk  of  North  Wales  witnessed 
similar  wonders  to  those  which  have  since  asto- 
nished the  Londoners.  The  principal  tubes  were 
constructed  on  piles  at  high- water  mark,  and  were 
formed  of  wrought-iron  plates  riveted  together  with 
white-hot  iron  bolts. 

A  system  of  longitudinal  tubes  or  cells  gave  the 
required  strength  to  the  top  and  bottom  of  each 
fabric,  these  cells  being  quite  as  effectual  as  solid 
metal.  Every  means  was  taken  to  make  the  tubes 


as  light  as  possible,  as  it  was  known  that  the  strength 
of  the  bridge  depended  on  its  lightness.  This  fact 
sounds  rather  paradoxical ;  but  if  the  reader  will 
reflect  a  moment  he  will  find  that  a  bridge  has  to 
support  itself,  as  well  as  the  things  passing  over  it. 
A  beam  of  solid  iron,  of  the  dimensions  of  the  Bri- 
tannia Bridge,  would  be  useless  if  placed  across  the 
Straits,  as  it  would  infallibly  break  down  under  the 
enormous  pressure  of  its  own  weight.  Stephenson's 
beam,  as  we  have  already  intimated,  has  all  the 
elements  of  strength,  but  none  of  the  elements  of 
weakness  of  a  common  beam. 

While  the  monster  tubes  were  being  constructed, 
the  masons  were  heaping  up  sandstone  and  marble 
into  the  huge  piers  upon  which  they  were  to  rest. 
The  central  pier  or  tower  was  built  upon  a  little 
rock  in  the  middle  of  the  stream.  This  rock,  which 
was  only  exposed  at  low-water,  had  long  been  a 
trouble  to  sailors  and  nothing  else,  but  it  is  now 
world-famous  as  the  Britannia  Rock,  the  chief  sup- 
port of  Stephenson's  magic  aerial  galleries.  Two 
other  piers  were  constructed,  one  on  the  Anglesey, 
and  the  other  on  the  Carnarvon  shore,  each  at  a 
distance  of  472  feet  from  the  Britannia  tower. 

The  bridge  was  to  consist  of  two  tubes,  placed 
side  by  side,  one  for  the  down  and  the  other  for  the 
up  trains.  Each  tube  was  formed  in  four  lengths, 
and  when  completed  these  lengths  had  to  be  joined 
together,  like  the  pieces  of  a  huge  dissected  puzzle. 
A  huge  puzzle,  indeed  !  When  these  immense  tubes 


were  finished,  how  could  they  be  thrown  across  the 
Straits  a  hundred  feet  above  the  level  of  the  water  ? 
The  reader  will  open  his  eyes  in  astonishment  when 
we  inform  him  that  the  four  principal  tubes,  each 
472  feet  in  length,  were  floated  into  the  centre  of 
the  Strait,  and  then  pumped  up  to  their  present 
elevated  position.  Said  we  not  that  science  had 
brought  the  powers  of  nature  under  man's  control 
— that  the  genii  of  the  lamp  had  become  the  willing 
slaves  of  the  modern  Aladdin  ? 

Each  tube  was  supported  on  pontoons — hu^e  life- 
buoys if  you  will— and  dragged  from  its  resting-place 
by  chains  connected  with  a  monster  windlass  sta- 
tioned on  the  opposite  bank.  This  operation  was 
performed  at  high-tide,  and  when  the  water  sank, 
the  delighted  spectators  beheld  the  tube  resting  in 
its  proper  position,  between  its  two  towers.  We 
need  scarcely  say,  that  we  refer  to  the  direction  of 
the  tube,  but  not  to  its  height,  when  we  here  speak 
of  its  proper  position.  The  mass  of  iron  had  yet 
to  be  lifted  high  into  the  air. 

Among  the  genii  of  the  lamp  there  is  one  called 
Fluid  Pressure,  and  to  this  power  the  task  of  raising 
the  tubes  was  committed.  The  hydraulic-press 
gave  direction  to  the  mighty  efforts  of  this  genie. 
This  engine  consists  essentially  of  a  strong  metallic 
cylinder,  in  which  is  inserted  a  solid  piston  or  ram, 
and  a  pump,  by  means  of  which  water  can  be  forced 
into  the  main  cylinder.  Many  of  these  machines 
were  employed  in  raising  the  different  lengths  of 


the  bridge ;  but  one  of  them  deserves  particular 
mention  on  account  of  its  stupendous  magnitude. 

The  cylinder  of  this  Cyclopean  engine  was  nine 
feet  long,  twenty-two  inches  in  internal  diameter, 
ten  inches  thick,  and  weighed  fifteen  tons.  Allowing 
for  the  waste,  twenty-two  tons  of  fluid  incandescent 
iron  were  required  for  this  enormous  casting.  After 
having  been  left  for  seventy-two  hours  in  the  mould 
in  which  it  was  cast,  the  mould  was  detached  from 
it.  It  was  still  red  hot !  It  was  then  left  to  cool, 
but  it  was  ten  days  before  it  was  sufficiently  cool  to 
be  approached  by  operatives  well-inured  to  heat, 
in  order  to  detach  from  it  some  of  the  sand  of  the 
mould  which  still  adhered  to  it. 

This  vast  machine  was  fixed  upon  an  iron  stage, 
near  the  summit  of  one  of  the  towers,  and  to  the 
cross-head  of  the  ram  were  attached  massive  chains, 
which  descended  to  the  level  of  the  water,  and  em- 
braced the  tube  to  be  raised. 

The  greatest  weight  lifted  by  the  press  was  1144 
tons,  but  it  was  capable  of  raising  2000  tons.  The 
quantity  of  water  injected  into  the  great  cylinder, 
in  order  to  raise  the  ram  6  feet,  was  81^  gallons. 
When  a  lift  of  six  feet  was  effected,  the  lifting 
chains  were  seized  by  a  set  of  clamps,  under  the 
lowest  point  to  which  the  cross-head  descended,  and 
while  they  were  thus  held  suspended,  the  water 
was  discharged  from  the  great  cylinder,  and  the  ram, 
with  its  cross-head,  made  to  descend.  Meanwhile, 
the  lengths  of  the  chain  above  the  clamps  were  re- 

-  THE   WONDERFUL   LAMP.  335 

moved,  and  the  chains  thus  shortened  attached  to 
the  cross-head  by  other  clamps,  and  all  was  prepared 
for  another  lift.  In  the  practical  operation  of  the 
machine  each  lift  of  six  feet  occupied  from  thirty 
to  forty-five  minutes.* 

The  towers  were  formed  of  three  massive  piers  of 
solid  masonry,  so  that  each  tube  just  filled  up  the 
space  between  the  inner  and  an  outer  pier.  As  the 
tubes  were  elevated  by  the  action  of  the  press  the 
vacant  spaces  beneath  were  closely  packed  with 
blocks  of  wood.  It  was  very  fortunate  that  this 
course  was  adopted,  as  an  accident  occurred,  which 
must  have  resulted  in  the  destruction  of  one  of  the 
tubes  had  the  packing  process  been  omitted.  The 
water  contained  in  one  of  the  presses,  not  content 
with  lifting  the  tube,  thought  fit  to  make  a  display 
of  its  power  by  thrusting  the  bottom  out  of  the 
cylinder,  thereby  killing  an  unfortunate  workman. 
The  monster  tube  fell  one  inch,  but  was  prevented 
from  falling  any  further  by  the  packing  beneath  ; 
had  it  fallen  six  feet  it  would  have  been  shivered 
into  atoms. 

When  all  the  tubes  were  elevated  to  their  perma- 
nent position  the  great  work  was  completed,  and 
Aladdin  gazed  at  the  new  wonder  with  delighted 
eyes.  These  aerial  galleries,  nearly  fifteen  hundred 
feet  in  length,  are  marvellously  strong,  each  being 
capable  of  bearing,  spread  over  its  whole  surface, 
the  enormous  weight  of  4000  tons — a  weight  nine 
*  Dr.  Lardner. 


times  greater  than  it  can  ever  be  required  to  sustain. 
The  hollow  beam  is  not  deflected  more  than  an  inch 
from  the  horizontal  line  by  the  passage  of  the 
heaviest  luggage-train,  and  it  is  scarcely  affected  at 
all  by  the  highest  wind. 

The  enchanted  engineer,  whom  we  whilom  saw 
beset  with  difficulties  of  no  ordinary  kind,  can  now 
point  to  the  twin  tubes  across  the  Menai  Straits, 
and  say  proudly,  "  My  task  is  performed,  the  bridge 
has  been  constructed  without  scaffolding,  and  little 
Mona  is  no  longer  separated  from  her  mighty 
sister."  We  need  scarcely  say  that  Mr.  Stephenson 
is  treated  quite  as  badly  as  the  ogre-guarded  prin- 
cess, for  no  sooner  has  he  performed  one  task  than 
the  ogre,  called  "  Nineteenth  Century,"  finds  him 
another  still  more  impossible  to  all  appearances 
than  the  last. 

Let  us  not  forget  that  although  the  human  mind 
may  plan  a  Britannia  Bridge  or  a  Great  Eastern,  the 
human  hands  could  never  construct  such  wonderful 
fabrics  without  the  assistance  of  those  mighty 
powers  of  the  material  world  which  man  by  indus- 
try and  patient  observation  has  succeeded  in  enslav- 
ing. Steam,  heat,  light,  electricity — indeed,  every 
agent  that  is  known  to  exert  power  in  the  natural 
world,  can  be  made  to  labour  in  the  world  of  art. 
These  forces,  then,  are  the  genii  that  attend  the 
lamp  of  science.  This  lamp,  like  that  of  Aladdin, 
must  be  rubbed  before  the  genii  will  appear ;  in 
plain  language,  science  will  not  reveal  its  mighty 
powers  unless  the  student  works  diligently. 


Our  artist  has  pictured  the  lamp  of  science  as  a 
luminous  hand.  What  is  the  meaning  of  this 
curious  emblem  ?  Reflect  for  a  moment,  and  you 
will  detect  a  deep  truth  hidden  in  this  fancy. 
Science,  dear  reader,  is  the  magical  hand  that  points 
out  truth  and  strikes  down  falsehood ;  and,  more 
than  that,  it  is  the  magical  hand  which  fashions  the 
crude  materials  of  the  world  in  objects  of  beauty, 
which  constructs  and  moves  all  kinds  of  machinery, 
which  performs  Herculean  feats  of  strength,  and 
executes  works  of  marvellous  delicacy. 

But  what  has  Science  to  do  with  the  wolf  and  the 
hog  at  the  bottom  of  the  emblem?  Nothing, 
indeed,  except  to  keep  them  out  of  mischief!  The 
wolf  stands  for  the  lawless  man  who  preys  upon  his 
fellow  mortals  and  lives  by  crime  ;  the  hog  for  the 
ignorant  glutton  who  wallows  in  the  mire  of  indo- 
lence, devouring  everything  that  comes  in  his  way. 
We  trust  that  these  brutes  in  human  form  will  one 
day  become  extinct,  and  that  the  chains  which 
depend  from  our  wonderful  lamp  will  be  no  longer 
needed  ;  at  present,  however,  it  is  absolutely  neces- 
sary to  restrain  the  wolf  from  interfering  with  those 
who  labour  in  the  light  of  science,  and  the  hog  from 
devouring  their  well-earned  food. 

Having  thus  "pointed  a  moral"  in  the  emblem 
that  "  adorns  our  concluding  tale,"  we  have  now  to 
bid  the  reader  farewell. 

Aii  unpleasant  task  is  this  leave-taking,  dear 
reader.  We  have  journeyed  together  for  some  tune, 


and  now  we  feel  as  though  we  were  parting  from 
an  old  friend.  We  have  treated  you  very  rudely, 
we  fear.  We  have  dragged  you  hither  and  thither 
without  once  asking  you  whether  you  liked  such 
wandering  habits.  We  have  led  you  through  the 
ancient  forests  ;  have  soared  with  you  to  the  con- 
fines of  space ;  have  plunged  with  you  into  the  sea ; 
and,  in  fine,  have  taken  you  everywhere.  We 
trust  that  you  bear  us  no  malice,  and  will  not  think 
that  time  wasted  which  was  spent  in  listening  to 





•prfnnpalljj  for  Hounjj  Persons, 






And  his  Knights  of  the  Bound  Table.  Compiled  and 
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For  the  Use  of  Children,  presenting  at  one  View  Illustrations 
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The  Story  of  a  Boy  and  Girl's  Adventures  in  the  Woods  and 
Wilds  of  the  Lion  King  of  Kandy.  By  WILLIAM  DALTON, 
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Or,  the  Adventures  of  a  Young  Artist  in  Piedmont  and 
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Or,  Recreation  for  the  Rising  Generation,  in  Prose  and 
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Daughter,  &c.  Illustrated  by  T.  HOOD,  Jun.  Super-royal 
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Containing  Twelve  Pictorial  Subjects,  with  Descriptive 
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Or,  the  Hunters  of  Ava,  and  the  King  of  the  Golden  Foot. 
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And  Book  of  Recreation .     By  E.  and  A.  LANDELLS,  Author 
of  "The  Boy's  Own  Toy  Maker."     Second  Edition.    With 
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Or,  the  Autobiography  of  a  Donkey.  By  the  Author  of 
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*'  A  very  intelligent  donkey,  worthy  of  the  distinction  conferred  upon  him 
by  the  artist." — Art  Journal. 


By  FRANCES  FREELING  BRODEHIP  (Daughter  of  the  late 
THOMAS  HOOD).  Illustrated  by  her  Brother.  Super-royal 
16mo,  price  2s.  6d.  cloth  ;  3s.  b'd.  coloured,  gilt  edges. 

"  The  Fables  contain  the  happiest  mingling  of  fun,  fancy,  humour,  and 
instruction." — Art  Journal. 


Or,  How  to  Make  Home  Happy.  Twentieth  Thousand. 
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Tally  System.  Fourth  Thousand. 


Or,  Hannah  Baker's  First  Place.     Second  Thousand. 
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"  Uncommonly  clever — some  wonderful  effects  are  produced." — The  Press, 


STEPHENSON.  By  the  Author  of  ' '  Might  not  Eight,"  "  Our 
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Dedicated  by  permission  to  the  late  Robert  Stephenson. 
Second  Edition.  Royal  16mo,  price  3s.  6d.  cloth  ;  4s.  6d. 
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DALTON,  Author  of  "The  White  Elephant."  Illustrated  by 
H.  S.  MELVILLE.  Fcap.  8vo,  price  5s.  cloth  extra. 

"  A  tale  of  lively  adventure,  vigorously  told,  and  embodying  much  curious 
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A  Practical  Illustrated  Guide  to  the  useful  employment  of 
Leisure  Hours.  By  E.  LANDELLS.  Fourth  Edition.  With 
200  Illustrations.  Royal  16mo,  price  2s.  6d.  cloth. 

"  A  new  and  valuable  form  of  endless  amusement." — Nonconformist. 

"  We  recommend  it  to  all  who  have  children  to  be  instructed  and  amused." 
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PRECOCIOUS  PIGGY.  Written  for  his  Children,  by  the 
late  THOMAS  HOOD.  With  a  Preface  by  his  Daughter ;  and 
Illustrated  by  his  Son.  Third  Edition.  Post  4to,  price 
2s.  6d.  coloured  ;  3s.  6d.  mounted  on  cloth. 

"  The  Illustrations  are  intensely  humorous." — The  Critic. 



A  Book  for  Youth.     By  J.  C.  BROUGH.     With  16  beautiful 
Illustrations  by  C.  H.  BENNETT.   Fcap.  8vo,  price  5s.  cloth. 

CONTENTS  :  1.  The  Age  of  Monstei-s. — 2.  The  Amber 
Spirit.— 3.  The  Four  Elements.— 4.  The  Life  of  an  Atom.— 
5.  A  Little  Bit. — 6.  Modern  Alchemy. — 7.  Magic  of  a  Sun- 
beam.— 8.  Two  Eyes  Better  than  One. — 9.  The  Mermaid's 
Home. — 10.  Animated  Flowers. — 11.  Metamorphoses. — 12. 
The  Invisible  World.— 13.  Wonderful  Plants.— 14.  Water 
Bewitched. — 15.  Pluto's  Kingdom. — 16.  Moving  Lands. — 
17.  The  Gnomes.— 18.  A  Flight  through  Space.— 19.  The 
Tale  of  a  Comet.— 20.  The  Wonderful  Lamp. 

"  Science,  perhaps,  was  never  made  more  attractive  and  easy  of  entrance 
into  the  youthful  mind." — The  Builder. 

"Altogether  the- volume  is  one  of  the  most  original,  as  well  as  one  of  the 
most  useful,  books  of  the  season." — Gentleman's  Magazine. 


Or,  The  STORY  of  a  BOY'S  PERILS  in  the  ISLANDS  of  CORSICA 
and  MONTE  CRISTO.  By  ALFRED  ELWES,  Author  of  "  Ocean 
andherEulers."  Illustrated  by  ANEL AY.  Fcap.  8vo,  5s.  cloth. 

"This  spirited  and  engaging  story  will  lead  our  young  friends  to  a  very 
intimate  acquaintance  with  the  island  of  Corsica,"— Art  Journal. 


Or,  LITTLE  TALKS  ON  GREAT  SUBJECTS.    A  Book  for  Girls. 
By  LEONORA  G.  BELL.    With  Frontispiece  by  J.  ABSOLON. 
Fcap.  8vo,  price  2s.  6'd.  cloth. 
«  A  very  suitable  gift  for  a  thoughtful  girl."— BeW$  Mettenger. 


FROM  NATURE  AND  RECOLLECTION.  In  Twenty  Plates.  By 
J.  B.  4to,  price  2s.  6d.  plain ;  3s.  6d.  coloured,  fancy 

«  Truer,  heartier,  more  playful,  or  more  enjoyable  sketches  of  animal  life 
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CAW,  CAW ; 

Or,  the  Chronicles  of  the  Crows.  Illustrated  by  J.  B.  Pnce 
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A  True  Story.     Second  Edition.     Price  6d.  sewed. 


By  the  Author  of  the  "Grateful  Sparrow."     With  Frontis- 
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AMERICA.  By  the  Author  of  "  Our  Eastern  Empire,"  &c. 
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DAYS.  Illustrated  by  H.  WEIR.  2s.  6d.  cloth ;  3s.  6d. 
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A  NARRATIVE  FOR  THE  YODNG.  Illustrated  by  ABSOLON. 
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Or,  THE  CHILD'S  OWN  TOT  MAKER.  With  practical 
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complete,  with  the  Cards  and  Descriptive  Letterpress. 

\*  By  this  novel  and  ingenious  "  Pastime,"  beautiful  Models 
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CONTENTS:  1.  Wheelbarrow. — 2.  Cab. — 3.  Omnibus. — 
4.  Nursery  Yacht. — 5.  French  Bedstead. — 6.  Perambu- 
lator.— 7.  Railway  Engine. — 8.  Railway  Tender. — 9.  Rail- 
way Carriage. — 10.  Prince  Albert's  Model  Cottage. — 11. 
Windmill.— 12.  Sledge. 

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"A  rarebook  for  Christmas  parties,  and  of  practical  val\ie."^Illustrated  News. 


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book  a  place  amongst  the  treasures  of  collectors,  as  well  as  excite  the  imagi- 
nations of  children." — Illustrated  Times. 



Author  of  "The  Martyr  Land,"  "Might  not  Eight,"  &c. 
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Or,  TALES  OF  THE  VAUDOIS.  By  the  Author  of  "Our 
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Or,  PRIDE  GOES  BEFORE  A  FALL.  By  M.  and  E.  KIRBT, 
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"  It  is  nearly  such  a  story  as  Miss  Edgeworth  might  have  written  on  the 
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Or  AGNES'  AND  KATE'S  TRAVELS.  By  CABOUNE  BELL.  numerous  Illustrations.  Small  4to,  price  3s.  6oC 
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With  admirable  simplicity  of  manner  it  notices  the  towns  the 


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Written  and  Illustrated  by  ALFRED  CBOWQUILL,  Author  of 
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Rhymes  and  Pictures.  By  WILLIAM  NEWMAN.  12  Illus- 
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Uniform  in  size  and  price. 



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of  conveying  information,  while  seeming  to  address  kimself  to  the  imagina- 
tion."—-2%e  Critic. 


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HAPPEN.  By  M.  and  E.  KIRBY.  With  Illustrations  by 
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Addressed  to  a  Child.  Embracing  an  Account  of  the  Man- 
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with  Incidents  of  Missionary  Life.  By  MBS.  M'DOUGALL. 
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1  <    .       ..    parf  TT 



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